Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Trans/Gender Politics of Shaming Women-as-Women, Around and Beyond the Queer, Antifeminist Blogosphere

image of painting, "Women of Amphissa", by Lawrence and Laura Alma-Tadena (1887) is from here
[Note: this post was slightly revised by its author, on 11 Dec. 2010. And again revised on 1 April 2013.]

When I speak here in this post of women, the Anglo-English term (also sometimes spelled wimmin), usually what I am referring to is people who exist in a system where gender is a binaried and hierarchical system of oppressive and brutal power. In such a system, the population of "women", typically and normally--not anecdotally, are defined and depicted this way: 
  • Human beings stereotypically and systematically presented in "great Western art" such as the painting above, as all being all five of these things: heterosexual objects, white, weak, thin, and costumed in flimsy, see-through clothes.When this population is not white, they are presented in additionally stereotypical ways in art and advertising.
  • Human beings born with what is termed by medical professionals to be a vagina and vulva, and not a penis and scrotum, regardless of their hormone or chromosome pattern, and regardless of whether or not the person has a vagina and vulva.
  • Human beings who, when born, may hear declarations of a life sentence of politically subordinate sexual status fused to the phrase, "It's a girl!!"
  • Human beings who are raised to be girls-not-boys, whatever that means across era, region, and culture.
  • Human beings who are seen as the group in the West who "can't throw well" and who are often seen to be not "behaving in an appropriately gendered way" if they are very active in or excel at team sports such as football/soccer, baseball, cricket, and basketball.
  • Human beings who are told to beware of boys.
  • Human beings who are assumed to be doing something negative if, when teenagers, they have lots of sex with other people, or, even, with themselves.
  • Human beings who, it is assumed, if they are "normal", will willingly accept a penis or phallic object somewhere into their body, and that this will occur many times over the course of their lifetime. They will not be termed "perverted" or "queer" for doing this, although they might be termed "loose" and "easy" for doing this with more than one person.
  • Human beings who, from day one through one's last day, are socially-politically targeted as THE MOST APPROPRIATE population to incest and rape when there are multiple (at least two) genders to choose among. When any other gendered person is incested or raped, they are not only seen by the dominant gender as becoming more like "girls and women", but are often targeted for such violation and terrorism because they are too much like girls or women. (As is the case with some gay males, and some genderqueer and transgender people.)
  • Human beings who are molested, incested, and raped twice as much by the time they are 21 as "the other gender".
  • Human beings who, from an early age, are socialised to want to be good mothers or mommies (US) or mummies (UK), primary parents, care-givers to people young and old, attentive and respectful of the needs of others.
  • Human beings who are assumed to exist for "the other gender", "men", or any people who are not women.
  • Human beings who are coerced or forced to be accommodating, accepting, appeasing, attention-giving, submissive, subservient, and subordinated to "the other gender" (in Anglo-English, called "men") in almost all ways, according to "great" religious texts and social custom.
  • Human beings who, during adolescence and through portions of adulthood, bleed out of their genitals, with such bleeding being assumed to be "natural" yet, according to "the other gender" also dirty; these are humans who have products sold to them to absorb the blood and make their genitals smell "fresh" and unnaturally perfumed, like a spring meadow or a floral bouquet, but not at all like human genitals.
  • Human beings who are assumed to exist to get pregnant, whether or not they do and whether or not they can biologically or for other reasons, like, say: the choice not to.
  • Human beings who, when the say they never want children, are not told they are selfish, heartless, and soulless for feeling that way.
  • Human beings who, when they wish to have children, are not violently prevented from doing so by being systematically and forcibly sterilised by allegedly professional medical personnel of "the other gender".
  • Human beings who are assumed to be "bad parents" if they aren't perfect or aren't fully present, as opposed to the members of another gender who are assumed to be bad parents only if they are overtly abusive or never present.
  • Human beings who are ostracised and put down for being selfish, self-absorbed, self-centered, arrogant, egotistical, self-aggrandising, aggressive, and ambitious. (If if goes unnoticed when someone is any of those things regularly, it is usually because the person isn't a "woman".)
  • Human beings who are, on average, paid less for doing comparable work than work done by "the other gender". Or who are not paid at all for doing "women's work".
  • Human beings who do most of the world's work, including hard labor, but are not usually recognised, appreciated, praised, or given million-dollar annual bonuses for doing so. 
  • Human beings who are enslaved, trafficked, and procured for sex-and-violence from "the other gender" because--and only because--the other gender demands it, requires it, and is willing to pay slavers, traffickers, and pimps, to make sure this practice is always available.
  • Human beings who are called the following names routinely, because they act in ways the other gender deems "negative" (meaning, they behave in ways that humans behave irrespective of gender or sexuality): b*tch, c*nt, nag, h*, wh*re, and sl*t.
  • Human beings who aren't hardly ever called "p*ssy-whipped" because they are already assumed to be sufficiently subordinated and degraded, by culture, nature, or G-d, in ways that term blatantly implies.
  • Human beings who, when they witness members of "the other gender" in a gender binary system telling one another "don't be such a girl" or "what are you, a woman?" are reminded of a socially inferior status, a negative stigma, because "the other gender" often feels as if they are being intentionally humiliated, degraded, and insulted.
  • Human beings who, when visibly afraid, are not seen to be acting in ways that shame their whole gender.
  • Human beings who, when socially shamed, are expected, interpersonally and socially, to bend to the will of the shamer, regardless of the shamer's gender.
  • Human beings who, as a group, from day one to their last days, are never systematically and structurally given male supremacist privileges and entitlements.

I hope that's clear. We may note that nothing about the above list "biologises" gender in any "essentialist" way. But neither does it pretend gender, in racist patriarchal societies, is disembodied or can be made surgically. Gendering is a social-structural-political process that begins with day one and continues through to the end of one's days. It's an additive process temporally, but not by adding on parts or taking away parts of one's anatomy. It is not subjective alone, while it is also, obviously, very subjectively experienced. But it is also socially and collectively experienced among and by a group of people designated and treated as girls-then-women by men who oppress them and by the male supremacist systems which keep specifically gendered insults, degradations, and atrocities aimed at girls and women for being girls and women.

The characteristics I want to focus on for this post are the two in bold & italics, above.

When one of two trans-governmentally/internationally/trans-continentally recognised genders shames the other, only one is expected to bend to the will of the gender doing the shaming. EXPECTED to. ASSUMED to. And if they do not, they WILL hear about it. They will hear about it verbally, or they may "hear about it" by being physically assaulted or killed. There are systems of exploitation, coercion, and terrorism socially in place, institutionalised, industrialised, and coded in custom and law, to regulate the degrees to which one gender may refuse the will and wants of the other without penalty or punishment. There's no level playing field here. It doesn't go "both ways".

Let's pretend "A" = men, and "B" = women for the discussion that follows.

For example, if one member of "gender A" wishes to obtain sex from someone they are partnered to and living with who is of the population "gender B" (if in a binary social gender system) and the "B" person says "Not now" repeatedly, it is socially assumed that if this occurs over a period of months, it might be acceptable for "A" to rent out people from whom to obtain sex.

Should "B" do the same thing, they will be considered abnormal for doing so and also will generally be determined to be behaving in a way that is deplorable. Meanwhile, "A" doing exactly the same thing will be assumed to be "only behaving in accordance with the healthy natural needs [of their gender]", as if renting humans for sex had anything at all to do with nature, health, or needs.

Should an "B" person who is partnered to and living with a "A" person, and "B" would like "A" to cook them at least one meal a day for the rest of their time living together, and to wash all their clothes, and to clean their abode, and to do primary child-care if they have children--however they acquire them, that is assumed to be asking a helluva lot. If "A" wants "B" to cook at least one meal a day, and have one's clothes washed, the home cleaned up, the children cared for, it is assumed to be "natural" for things to work that way, or "in keeping with G-d's laws" or the reason the universe creating As and Bs, even while most of human community across culture and history wasn't and isn't organised in this oppressive-to-women way. (CRAP is not universal, and never was. It's rulers and terrorists just want it to be.)

What we can note is there is an entirely different set of expectations and assumptions about the behaviors of these two groups: one is assumed to exist for and perform for, and no disappoint and meet the needs of the other.

Now, I'm snapping this reality into a much smaller circle of humanity, sometimes referred to as "queer community" or LGBTQ" community. When predominantly white gay men got AIDS in the Western world, it was lesbians and other gay men, and bisexuals, and heterosexual women, who took care of them. Heterosexual men, by and large, did not. When AIDS shifted from primarily infecting and killing whites to infecting and killing people of color, and from primarily infecting and killing men to doing the same to women, we may note that white gay and het men are not the populations of people who do the caring and attending to the needs of those afflicted and infected.

Now I'm snapping us back into the larger human community.

When it comes to providing care, interpersonally or socially, one group is expected to care for the other: women are expected to care for men. The expectation is backed up with manipulative and coercive or overtly violent, aggressive force.

When it comes to "making space" or "accommodating" one group, it only works one way: those without B privileges and entitlements are expected to make space for and accommodate the needs, wishes, wants, and whims, of A people.

Now I'm going to snap us into a more complex sexed and gendered reality--a society in which there are people born and heralded with comments like "It's a boy!!!", who are raised to be boys, who are also socialised to be men, but who may never have felt like a boy or a man. And, those brought into the world hearing (if not yet understanding) "It's a girl!!!", who are then raised to be girls, and who are also socialised to be women, but who never felt like a girl or a woman. We'll call these people "transsexual", "transgender", and "intergender".

Note: Some of these people may also be intersex, but being intersex doesn't distinguish "trans" and "intergender" people from "non-trans" and "non-intergender" people.

What I've observed in queer and non-queer communities is this: that the group "women" as identified atop this post, are expected to be accommodating to "everyone else" including transgender and transsexual people, regardless of how the trans people experience and name their own genders and sexes.When shame is applied systematically as a tool for coercion, it only works one way, usually, with few exceptions, which I'll get to in a moment.

If any woman refuses to accept how non-women (as identified above, atop this post) identify themselves, they are assumed to be behaving in cruel, bigoted, insensitive, callous, and contemptuous ways. There is social permission on the blogosphere to systematically shame that population (often termed "cis women" or "cisgender women") or any portion of that population, who refuses to bend to the will and wishes of trans people.

Question: If any man refuses to accept how trans people identify themselves, well, you know, they're men. So what'd'ya gonna do?
Answer: You focus back on those horrible women who won't accept you.

Question: If you want social services, such as rape-trauma support counseling and other resources for surviving rape, and men, as a class, refuse to offer you any, what'd'ya gonna do?
Answer: You focus on women who you expect to open their services for one another, to you.

Question: If non-trans men gather in ways that are exclusive--"men-only"--and you want to attend as a transgender or transsexual person, and they don't want you there, what'd'ya gonna do?
Answer: Focus on getting women to be "accommodating" and "accessible" and "accepting" and "tolerant" and "understanding" and "congenial". Because Lorde knows those men aren't gonna be any of those things, usually, as a class of gendered people.

The man and male supremacy that shows up through socialisation, structural conditioning, and learned political entitlements dictates which political groups are expected to accommodate others, or which groups will be systematically threatened, harassed, bullied, violated, and/or terrorised if they don't accept other groups.

This is what I see happening on the internet, and off of it: the political group "women", as defined above, is assumed to be a group that WILL accommodate the needs and wishes and wants of non-women, including when some members of the non-women identify as women.

And this is where the politics of shame and force really kick into high gear. Should some women refuse to accept that some people with some conditioned/structurally "gifted" male supremacist entitlements and privileges, acquired or afforded in childhood or beyond it, those women will be shamed, ridiculed, called misogynistic names, and be threatened in various ways, with at the very least insult, degradation, and derision. They won't simply be "critiqued" for not accepting and accommodating the needs and wishes of trans people. Which political group may only be critiqued, but usually not also systematically shamed harassed, insulted, degraded, ridiculed, called nasty/derogatory gender-specific names, and threatened or terrorised? Men.

I'm calling out the sexual/gender politics, racist and misogynistic to the core, of some women being targeted on transsexual and transgender blogs (on the blogs of people who have had some male privileges or entitlements for part of their lives) for such derision and misogynist bigotry, when most men are not. If that's not misogyny and sexism in action, pray tell, what is it?

I've been calling out the sexual/gender politics, racist and misogynistic to the core, of men being sexist to women, of men being insulting and degrading to women, of men being threatening and terroristic to women.

The politics of this blog call for anyone with male supremacist privileges, past or present, and anyone with male supremacist entitlements, past or present, to be called out as sexist and misogynist, if not also racist, when they target "only women" for derision and ridicule.

I've seen several radical lesbian feminists (including Sheila Jeffreys, Mary Daly, Germaine Greer, Janice Raymond, and the women of blog, AROOO), most of them white, some of them Black, be regarded as nothing more than bigots and b*tches for not accommodating to the wishes and needs of trans people. I can link to their blogs and specific posts in which they rail against these women. And I see no comparable complaints or targeting of MEN, of men who are writers and activists, of men who are bloggers, for behaving in non-accommodating and non-accepting and "intolerant" ways. What's up with that?

If that isn't a form of gross misogyny online, what is it?

Nothing in this post should be assumed to render non-existent many different forms of experiencing gender dysphoria; and nothing about what is above denies intersex conditions of being. For those who don't know, I am intergender. I have never felt like a boy or a girl when young, or like a man or a woman when an adult. I know that transsexual people have experiences of self-in-society that I do not have. I don't presume to know what those are, but I can, through listening, empathise with many of the experiences I hear about.

As noted, gender within a racist patriarchal context--in the personal and social spaces I term "CRAP"--is a category of social-structural-political meaning. It has connections to human physiology and expectations about what one's body exists to do, but not in any logical or absolute ways. What being "a woman" is, has varied with culture and era. Being a woman isn't one experience. But neither is it completely undefinable. It is not abstract, the way too many post-structuralist/pomo theorists pretend it is.

A woman friend of mine was raped a couple of years ago. She experiences pain in specific parts of her body--that pain in her body is part of the trauma and the post-trauma of rape. The meaning of that part of her body is social and personal. The rape of her body shapes her experience of herself in profound ways. And it is not the same experience, exactly, as a male being raped. It isn't not because males being raped is not terrible or horrible or traumatic. It is different because since birth, parts of her body (which is also to say, her being) have been targeted "for rape", and that's part of what she's had to live with--that social-terroristic reality--since birth through to this day.

To promote a political course of action in which one claims as one's individual and group right, the entitlement to name oneself with the primary political term a specifically and horribly oppressed group of people use to name themselves, that is also forced upon them, is to be so grossly insensitive to that condition of being human, that it warrants calling out, as long as it takes for the people to fully and viscerally understand that they are committing an act of misappropriating another political groups' experience and are violating their being through naming themselves as that group. What is called for is significantly more compassionate and non-defensive, non-offencive listening to those women/wimmin who are calling out the misogyny in many trans terms and some transgender and transsexual actions. I must note that the transgender and transsexual people I know offline are sensitive to women's/wimmin's concerns and don't obnoxiously demand to be respected for appropriating them.

10 comments:

random said...

And yet if we say that this happens because transgendered males are male regardless of their gender "identity" we're called various types of b*tches, we are threatened with rape (MEN rape btw MEN use rape as a tool MEN don't take rape seriously) and more.

I won't hold my breath for the day that a transgendered male is even willing to discuss this with a born woman without first degrading her by calling her "cis" and second, without centering his own needs and wants. That's maleness, the expectation that what is important to you and what you need is MOST important to all and SHOULD be given to you simply because you want it.

Transgendered males will never be women simply because they are male, were male, have been conditioned and socialized as male. I don't care how many dresses or make up items are purchased or what ways these ppl try to play a role of female, they never ever will be because simply having a fuck hole doesn't make one female. And the sooner they realize that appropriating our experiences, identity, and purpose according to fuckability is NOT pro-female and doesn't make them FEMALE, the better.

But like I said, I won't hold my breath. I want a transgendered male to really explain to me what transphobia is. Because it seems to me that any real analysis of trans is going to be decried as transphobia. Anything that isn't praising them and stroking their egos=transphobia.

Julian Real said...

Given your comment, random, I've added more to the post. I realised there was more than was left unsaid that I had to say.

I plan to hold transsexual and transgender people with past or current male privilege accountable to their misogyny when I see it being demonstrated and defended.

kathy said...

Excellent post. You really break down and clarify the *structural* meaning of masculinity and femininity here. And you are very incisive about the specific misogyny of transgendered people in a way i hadn't always thought about-- how it is always women that they demand space and services from, not men. gasp of the obvious!
I'd like to recommend my blog Dialectical Spin: radical feminism in otherland kmiriam.wordpress.com
could you add me to your roll? and I'll add you if i can re-figure out how to do it. thanks again for the post.

Julian Real said...

Hi Kathy,

Thank you so much for your comment.

I have happily added your blog to my blog roll, and would be honored if you did the same--if the computer wizards wish for it to be so.

Sometimes blogger doesn't allow me to link to wordpress blogs on my roll, but in this case, "voila!" it happened. A good sign!!

Laurel said...

Hi Julian,

I thought this list was really quite brilliant. The one item I had a problem with was this one. We need this list or one like it when being confronted with a list of so-called "cis privilages," which are in actuality MALE privilages!

Julian Real said...

Hi Laurel,

We're pretty much on the same page here. And thanks for your comment. The next post on this topic I'm planning is an analysis of what is termed "cis gender privilege" (seemingly always "women's", and rarely "men's").

The misogynist political strategy of promoting "a significant difference in power and privilege" between "cis" women and "trans" women functions to effectively take the focus off the most privileged and powerful among us: non-trans men/white men/het men.

"Divide and conquer" is as old a formula for maintaining oppressor status and station as promoting ownership and sexual abuse of women--for men to cast some women as *for* collective/multiple abuser/systematic male supremacist sexual trauma and terrorism (by het men), while culturally targeting/naming other women as being *for* primarily private/intimate/personal-longterm single abuser sexual abuse (by het men). And then we have gay men, who get to decide if their political strategy is to say "I'm just as much of a man as those woman-abusers are" or "I stand with women in opposing all forms of misogyny and anti-feminine terrorism."

In my view, white gay men, especially, have cast their lot with their white het brothers, and that's what white class-privileged queer politic agendas demonstrate: being pro-pornography/prostitution, pro-bdsm, and pro-liberalism/libertarianism with both ideologies generally serving the interests of the most powerful men in a society.

I think the pressure, from pro-lesbian feminist and queer folks, needs to be put on transgender and transsexual folks to aim their anger at the oppressor, and to wake up to the fact that their oppressor is NOT "cis" women. Transsexual people may feel left out or marginalised by some non-trans women in a few places and spaces. But it's only het men, as a ruling class, who will rape and kill anyone who identifies as a woman.

It's politically self-destructively expedient and woman-hating as hell to promote that agenda and ideology: that women oppress trans people of any gender identity.

As we all know all too well, it's a lot harder (and infinitely more dangerous) to challenge WHM power directly by wresting it out of the lethal hands of white het men and the systems and institutions they control and regulate.

Sara said...

"When I speak here in this post of women, the Anglo-English term (also sometimes spelled wimmin), usually what I am referring to is this population of human beings:"

For sure, and you're not the only one either, over 99% of the population of the world does. It's the hierarchal norm to do so. It's not subversive or progressive to do so, it's simply the norm.

Even people who know trans women still think of women (with no other specifier) as being your definition, unless specified otherwise in a context.

Julian Real said...

Sara, I find your comment to be grossly racist and regionalist.

MOST people don't speak English. Most people are not Western. Most people are Asian and African.

So please stop pretending that MOST people use English-Anglo terms.

If you continue to post racist/white- and anglo-centric comments, your comments will not be posted to this blog.

And if all you wish to do is troll here and criticise my posts as "transphobic" or whatever, you may also be banned from posting here.

feministninja said...

Just...thank you. For getting it.

Julian Real said...

You're most welcome, feministninja. I appreciate your comment.