Bread and circuses, tea and cake…

November 13, 2008

The Manchester Metropolitan University School of law
The Manchester Institute for Social and Spatial Transformations

A Feminist Perspective on the Transsexual Debate

Friday 5th December 2pm-5pm, The School of Law, Manchester Metropolitan University, M16 6HB – just off Oxford Rd.

Julie Bindel, Guardian Journalist, nominee for the Stonewall Journalist of the Year 2008, author of “Women Overcoming Violence and Abuse”, and “The Map of My Life: The Story of Emma Humphreys”

Dr. Susan Stryker, Women’s Studies, the University of Illinois, Visiting Professor, Harvard University, Author of “The Trans Studies Reader”, and “Transgender History”

Chair: Prof. Stephen Whittle, MMU School of Law, author of “Respect and Equality: Transsexual and Transgender Rights” and “The Trans Studies Reader”.

Public Attendance Cost: £12 or £5 on benefits (evidence of benefits must be produce at door).

Free for MMU Staff and Students, ticketless entrance: your staff or student card must be shown at the door.

People who are not MMU staff or students must apply for tickets. Without a ticket you will be refused entrance to this event.

To apply for tickets:

Email: send Full details , indicating the number of tickets, to David Hulme, d.hulme@mmu.ac.uk. Please send a separate cheque for the correct amount by postal mail to Dave at the address below. Admittance will not be allowed without payment.

Postal Mail: send Full details , indicating the number & type of tickets, with a cheque for payment to: David Hulme, The School of Law Office
Sandra Burslem Building, Manchester Metropolitan University
Lower Ormond St, Manchester M15 6HB.

For details of the venue look for Building no.19 on the map at: http://www.mmu.ac.uk/travel/maps/mmu_maps_allsaints_aytoun.pdf

Pink Floyd – Us And Them

Us and Them
And after all we’re only ordinary men
Me, and you
God only knows it’s not what we would choose to do
“Forward!”, he cried from the rear
And the front rank died
The General sat and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side

Black and Blue
And who knows which is which and who is who
Up and Down
And in the end it’s only round and round and round
Haven’t you heard? It’s a battle of words
The poster bearer cried
“Listen, son”, said the man with the gun
“There’s room for you inside”

Down and Out
It can’t be helped but there’s a lot of it about
With, without
And who’ll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about?
Out of the way, it’s a busy day
I’ve got things on my mind
For want of the price of tea and a slice
The old man died…

(YouTube link)

15 Responses to “Bread and circuses, tea and cake…”

  1. queen emily Says:

    While it’s nice Susan Stryker’s there to call bullshit on Julie Bindel’s beliefs, seriously wtf? “The Transsexual Debate”.. Transsexuals: Disgusting or Really Bloody Disgusting?

    JB doesn’t need another bloody public forum for her pathetically uninformed “analysis.” I think I’d rather hear Viviane Namaste talk about what “the transsexual debate” reveals about US/UK feminism’s cis ideological biases and assumptions. How weird.

  2. Zenobia Says:

    I thought that to give perspective on a debate you had to have a sense of perspective. Perhaps Ms Bindel will be showing proof of hers at the door.

    Seems pretty expensive also, I’m not sure I’d pay that much to see a gig, let alone see feminist speakers, triply so because there are tons of people who have far more interesting things to say than, well, Bindel for instance, who would actually be prepared to pay out of their own pockets for the privilege to be heard. And having to show evidence of benefits at the door seems a bit degrading. I don’t really know the other speakers, they might be worth it, but still.

    And, if there is to be a debate as opposed to a rights campaign (which would make more sense from a feminist perspective), it would be good to move beyond ‘right or wrong??’.

    I think I’d rather hear Viviane Namaste talk about what “the transsexual debate” reveals about US/UK feminism’s cis ideological biases and assumptions.

    Well, personally I think it reveals a heck of a lot of really ugly things about feminist ideological biases. When you link all the womb-worship, women-born-women stuff with the racism and eugenics and motherhood cult that permeated the American suffrage movement and the early feminist movement in general… yeah, a heck of a lot.

  3. Helen G Says:

    Is there anything about being transsexual that actually *needs* debate – particularly if that debate is to be rooted in a cis perspective, as I suspect Ms Bindel will insist, one way or another.

    It’s entirely unclear to me who the debate is intended to benefit, and what its purpose is.

    Frankly, it’s time second wave feminism began to deal with the existence of trans people and stop demanding we justify our personhood at every opportunity.

    Perhaps the subject of “A Transsexual Perspective on the Feminist Debate” would provide a more illuminating discourse?

    But then again, perhaps not…

  4. queen emily Says:

    Zenobia: well, Stephen Whittle and Susan Stryker are both trans academics so I’m sure they’d have interesting things to say, and I’d love to here them talk, but I don’t really know why they’d bother to “debate” Julie Bindel ffs.

    Helen: Yeah, innit. I mean, a feminist discussion of transness, what a bloody relief someone wants to talk about that.. ha. I hope there is a lot of discussion about the philosophy of gender theory and transition, and no attention to lived realities, legal issues, discrimination, homelessness or the violence trans people face.

  5. Kirsten Says:

    This is odd, considering the NUS no platform decision.

    On a related but happier note, Julie Bindel was due to appear at a debate at my university, but the event has been cancelled for undisclosed reasons.

  6. Helen G Says:

    Kirsten: ‘No platform’ would just give Ms Bindel even more reason to whine about being silenced by trans people.

    She would be amusing if she wasn’t such a bore.

  7. Zenobia Says:

    Is there anything about being transsexual that actually *needs* debate – particularly if that debate is to be rooted in a cis perspective, as I suspect Ms Bindel will insist, one way or another.

    Well, quite. Feminists don’t spend their time justifying themselves to corporate interests, the tory party and the NRA (oh, wait, maybe they do) so why should trans people be obliged to prove to feminists that they exist?

    And if you have to prove to your allies that you exist before they’ll help you out campaigning for trans rights and so forth, how much time does that waste? I mean, reading trans blogs, half the posts are about trans people being murdered for being trans. Does no one see that?

    And this often from the kind of feminists who think queer theory is such a waste of time because ‘women are dying!’ But when Sheila Jeffreys or Mary fucking Daly writes a book, it’s like “Yay, the flesh of my mothers, let me sup on this feminist feast!”. Got to read this pragmatic, non-convoluted, non-theoretical writing about saving all women (because that’s totally what it is) before tossing a coin to see if we acknowledge the existence of trans people so we can think about supporting them in their fight for basic human rights. Now, I’m a big fan of theory – but in that case, you can’t block out everyone’s theory that you don’t agree with by saying that everyone’s but yours isn’t pragmatic enough, then producing a copy of gyn/ecologies to prove your point. That’s ridiculous.

    I mean, I find it annoying enough, and I’m not trans. I think if I was I’d be tempted to show up with a crate of rotten tomatoes.

  8. Helen G Says:

    Zenobia: “And if you have to prove to your allies that you exist before they’ll help you out campaigning for trans rights and so forth, how much time does that waste?”

    More to the point, what kind of allies are they if they think it’s All. About. Them.

    Entitled, much?

    Why do they even need to be asked anyway? Feminism’s supposed to be about equality for all, yes? Clue phone: trans people are also part of the word “all”…

    And the ‘women are dying’ thing? Oh right, right – because (a) trans women aren’t “real” women anyway and are therefore disposable and (b) anyway everyone knows that trans women aren’t dying, of course – and even if we were, it’d probably be justified because we’re all sex workers who are only men in dresses anyway…

    I won’t mention which blogger I read today (cis, of course) basically whining that nobody had told hir about Duanna Johnson until last night. But I *will* mention that that pisses me off *so* much.

    But when all’s said and done, what *exactly* is the problem? Could it be that our existence completely demolishes all the precious gender theories, and *that’s* what’s really the issue? That they might have to take their brains out of the damn jars and start using them?

    Keep your frickin ignorant, unworkable and unproven theories off my body, you idiots.

  9. Zenobia Says:

    Well, transphobic people tend to go utterly batshit if you call them transphobic – there’s a clue there. But that’s kind of beside the point, really – the point is they’re monopolising a public forum where trans rights could be discussed, and, as you say, making it about them instead.

    I mean, a lot of white feminists who ‘accept women of colour, really!’ are like that.

  10. Helen G Says:

    Zenobia: Yep, absolutely. Lisa wrote a really excellent post called, amazingly enough, How Not to be Defensive When Accused of Transphobia (A Guide For Cis People)

    But of course, most transphobic cis women feminists – if they even read it at all – will undoubtedly think that it doesn’t apply to them.

    Because they’re not transphobic d’you see, not really. Why, some of them have even met a transgenderoid, once. And one of their friends has this friend whose neigbour has this second cousin twice removed who’s actually friends with an actual One Of Them. So how could they possibly be transphobic?…

    Pfft.

  11. Zenobia Says:

    Oh, and the ‘I’m not afraid of trans people *scoff!*’ argument, that holds a lot of water, because at the end of the day, they are afraid of the ‘other’ and their reaction to this ‘other’, and I mean they say themselves they don’t want trans people in their women-only spaces because they feel they can’t be themselves. So they are literally afraid of transpeople.

    I mean, I’ve been there, sort of, I was never kind of objectively transphobic on an intellectual level, I didn’t try to justify it to myself or anything, and I got over it (thanks to you, largely, actually), but I was probably a bit transphobic at one point. Although, weirdly, I don’t think I was especially before encountering the feminist blogosphere. Big deal – we all have racist reactions sometimes too. The problem is when you try to justify them to yourself and build a whole clusterfuck of an ideology around it.

  12. Zenobia Says:

    Although, could I have hit on a definition of ‘ideology’ there?

  13. Helen G Says:

    Z: …they don’t want trans people in their women-only spaces because they feel they can’t be themselves

    Yeah, their cissexism and trans-misogyny has become a low-level buzzing noise to them, like an aircon unit in the next room. They’ve filtered it out of their consciousness for so long that it’s now dropped below their threshold of audibility.

    There’s also the “taking up too much space with your icky male energy” thing. What is applauded as assertive self-confidence in a cis woman feminist is seen as aggressively invasive behaviour in a trans woman.

    “…a whole clusterfuck of an ideology…”

    I love you :)

    Drea made a very pertinent post a little while ago.

  14. Zenobia Says:

    Drea made a very pertinent post a little while ago.

    Well, you have to recognise the parts of stuff that are racist, sexist, transphobic, etc. however much you like stuff. I mean, that’s the flipside of the fact that something doesn’t have to be perfect before you like it, that doesn’t mean you have to endorse it 100%. I mean, I post about some quite sexist stuff I like on my blog sometimes, and either I don’t comment, or I comment on where I don’t think it’s sexist and then the parts I do think are sexist. Like with R. Crumb (which I know no one gives a shit about but whatever), I don’t think a lot of feminist criticisms of his work are correct, on the other hand I do see some misogyny in there.

    Actually, I remember having a discussion with a (white) guy on how terribly white people are because they don’t boycott all products that have colonial origins or colonial stuff on the label. But, we would have to boycott the entire world, basically, because colonialism is a huge part of our history. He’d have to stop blogging, for a start, because, the copper in the wires of our computers doesn’t grow on trees in Kent. You don’t have to embrace it, but you have to see it’s there.

    Maybe that’s why I find picking out individual instances of racism, sexism, and transphobia to be a bit futile. I mean, they’re just the bits where the underlying structure became apparent to those of us who are the most privileged.

    I mean, you can refuse to buy the pack of Banania cocoa powder because it depicts a master and slave on the front – but the horrors that this colonialism caused are still there, whatever the picture on the front. The people in the cocoa plantation are probably still working in horrendous conditions and they’re still all but enslaved, even if you’re not made to feel bad when you buy it in the supermarket.

    Yeah, their cissexism and trans-misogyny has become a low-level buzzing noise to them, like an aircon unit in the next room. They’ve filtered it out of their consciousness for so long that it’s now dropped below their threshold of audibility.

    Well, they’ve locked it up somewhere and thrown away the key – hence how neurotic their thinking on the matter becomes. I mean, Bindel’s reaction to being called transphobic is incredibly neurotic. And others’ reactions too. “I don’t have gender! This is why my blog name is Miss Princess Lullubelle of Ovariandorf, and I type this wearing a giant strap-on penis with John Galt’s face tattooed on the foreskin! But I don’t have gender! Not me! Get your gender-cooties away! it’s catching!”

  15. Helen G Says:

    Kirsten: I gather that the NUS ‘no platform’ decision doesn’t apply because this isn’t an NUS-organised event…


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