Archive for the 'Radical feminism' Category
My previous post (link here) has drawn me into looking further back along the organisational chain of command, and the results are as depressing and predictable as one might expect; as much for the failure of would-be allies as for the actual transphobia of the organisers.
Reclaim The Night and Feminism in London are both organised by the London Feminist Network and one commonality in all their literature is the use of the trans exclusionary phrase “women only”.
The problem arises because the term is grounded in the use of the long-established trope which states that transsexual women are “not really women” – hence my assertion that the phrase women only is trans exclusionary. The definition is essentialist in meaning as it infers that one can only be “born a woman” (and never “become a woman”, to paraphrase de Beauvoir), and in so doing it denies not only the existence and agency of transsexual women and transsexual men, but also the potential for change itself. Thus women comes to mean cis women, just as surely as women only means cis women only. The biological determinism underpinning this rationale ensures that these definitions become permanent, unquestionable, immutable dogma.
However, it also results in the anomalous situation we now see in the cases of both Feminism In London and Reclaim The Night where transsexual men (“really women”) will be welcomed to these events, at the same time as transsexual women (“really men”) will be excluded. The bias in favour of transsexual men not only makes use of one of the most offensive manifestations of transphobia – ungendering us – but silences and further marginalises transsexual women in the process: it is divisive too. At the same time, it reinforces the male/female binary which, in their next breath, those same cis women feminists will tell you they are committed to destroying – because, they reason, gender isn’t really absolute, determined by one’s genital configuration at birth, it is in fact a completely malleable, socially constructed concept.
But regardless of the contorted and contradictory logic employed by LFN to exclude transsexual women, it’s interesting to note how the cis women feminist organisers then go on to avoid being called on their hidden transphobia by saying nothing explicitly about who is included in, and who is excluded from, the term women only. Their cis women feminist supporters at these events, who blithely go along with this hypocrisy by telling themselves that if transsexual women aren’t explicitly excluded then they must be implicitly included, are therefore not only complicit in the silencing of transsexual women, but their complacency allows the organisers to manipulate and exploit them in pursuit of this hidden transphobic agenda.
Which brings me to the real question: who decided this? How many people were responsible for implementing this trans exclusionary policy – and would they have been successful if the majority not been so apathetic? In a situation like this, saying nothing is no different to actively supporting the bigots. And given that transsexual women are highly unlikely to have access to the decision-making process, it falls to those cis women feminists who call themselves allies to take a stand on our behalf.
No more excuses, my sisters.
Cross-posted at Harlot’s Parlour
Next weekend sees the Feminism in London 09 event. There are various workshops and discussions on a range of subjects: for example, racism and sexism, self-defence and assertiveness training, activism training, etc – and nearly 30 speakers scheduled. Any self-identified woman, whether cis or not, would surely find something of interest there.
But what’s this on the front page of the website?
If you are a woman or a pro-feminist man, come along to join the discussion.
Any trans woman seeing that will surely already hear the alarm bells ringing. It shouldn’t need restating that the word “woman” defaults to meaning “cis woman” and excludes trans women as a consequence. And “pro-feminist man”? I wonder if that includes trans men?
But there’s more. At the bottom of every single page of the website is this little gem of transphobia:
Some workshops may be for women only.
I see. And which workshops might they be, then? Close reading suggests that there is, in fact, only one workshop which is open to cis women only, and it’s the Rape and sexual violence workshop.
Because, as we know, trans women never suffer rape and violence.
Scratch the surface and the same old hidden agenda can be seen. Biological determinism: if you were born male-bodied, you will only ever be male. And its corollary – if you were born female-bodied, you will only ever be female – is the flipside. The thinking, if that’s the word I want, is fundamentally cissexist. The implication is that, irrespective of how we self-identify, to cis people we are always and forever the gender we were assigned at birth. It’s interesting that a self-styled feminist event should choose to implement such an essentialist policy. Whatever happened to the idea that gender is entirely socially constructed? And what happened to the feminism that preached equality for all and an end to oppression and discrimination?
And what all of this means in the context of the event is that a trans man will be welcome at the Rape and sexual violence workshop (because cis women have decided that he’s “really a woman”), but not a trans woman (because cis women have decided that she’s not).
But then I suppose it would be foolish to expect anything else of an event organised by the rabidly transphobic London Feminist Network. The same people who were last seen supporting a
transphobic bigot celebrity lifestyle journalist at last year’s Stonewall UK protest, and who are no doubt already gearing up for the annual Reclaim The Night (But Only For Cis Women) march next month.
Frankly, if this is state of feminism in Britain’s biggest city in the 21st century you know what you can do with it.
Cross-posted at Harlot’s Parlour
All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artefact, and appropriating this body for themselves. [...] Transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive.
The transsexually constructed lesbian-feminist feeds off woman’s true energy source, i.e. her woman-identified self. It is he who recognises that if female spirit, mind, creativity and sexuality exist anywhere in a powerful way it is here, among lesbian-feminists.
I contend that the problem with transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence.
From The Transsexual Empire: the making of the she-male (1979) by Janice Raymond.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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…
Last Thursday I was with 150 other people at a protest outside an awards ceremony taking place at the V&A Museum in London. It strikes me as being entirely appropriate that Stonewall UK – an organization with a positively prehistoric attitude to trans people – should hold, in a museum, an event which some might see as a celebration of its dinosaur-like irrelevancy.
At the same time, on the other side of the entrance, a counter-protest was held by a dozen supporters of one of the nominees – a lifestyle columnist whose recent claim to fame has been the volume and intensity of the transphobic hate speech encapsulated in her published articles.
The self-styled fan club, and the celebrity journalist herself, had at least two things in common: they’re cis (non-trans) women, and they’re feminists. And therein lies the rub. Because I’m a trans woman – and I also believe in the basic principles of feminism. So how come that small group of cis women feminists ended up standing opposite our rainbow alliance of people from across the gender spectrum, resolute and implacable in their hostility towards us?
Surely we all want the same thing, don’t we – equality for all?
How did we end up at this impasse? Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought that feminism was about ending the oppression of women – all women – not perpetuating it. And that simple phrase offers a clue to one of the causes (if not the central cause) of the problem: “all women”. Because, according to the journalist, trans women aren’t real women. We’re just men in dresses.
Except we’re not. I identify as a woman, and I live as a woman. And although I was assigned male at birth – I have never denied or made a secret of that – I have transitioned legally, socially and medically. To all intents and purposes, and in every practical way that society can think of, I am a woman. And I don’t need the approval of thirteen cis feminists for that. Sadly, those cis feminists – and there are others – believe in an essentialism best summed up as “biology is destiny” (whatever happened to “our bodies, our choice”?). “Once a man, always a man”, or so they would have us believe. That they cannot prove that I’m not a woman is clearly a source of vexation for them. Yet they persist with the propagation of an intense hatred of trans women which, if it was instead the manifestation of, let’s say, racism, would not be tolerated by any right-thinking human. Indeed, it would be illegal. (For clarity: I’m not saying that transphobia is worse than racism, or vice versa). But their cissexual supremacist attitudes raise questions which are routinely ignored by many, perhaps most, other cis feminists.
I now think that the silent majority of cis feminists should no longer continue looking the other way and excusing hate speech as an acceptable part of the ‘diversity of feminism’. To do so positions the feminist in the same place as Stonewall, with its self-promotion as a ‘diversity champion’ professing to work against transphobia at the same time as it condones one of the UK’s most prolific writers of transphobic tracts.
Important decisions need to be made: if a cis feminist is truly an ally to trans people, then she needs to decide what she’s going to do about the transphobia which informs the writings of the journalist in question, and others like her. But to do that, the cis feminist first needs to examine her own attitudes to trans people. She needs to recognise, and come to terms with, her own cis privilege(s) and potentially cissexist and trans-misogynist attitudes.
What I’m interested in at the moment, what’s been preoccupying my thoughts since the protest, is why the many other cis feminists who profess not to hold the same transphobic views of that minority in their midst, and who say that they are our friends, allies and supporters continue to tolerate the oppression of trans women by a minority of their sisters in feminism.
Some cis feminists will argue that the journalist has, in her time, said and done good things for feminism, but as far as I’m concerned, any good work she may have once done is far outweighed by the oppression of trans people that she has meted out so relentlessly for so many years. We cannot, must not, overlook the fact that she continues to argue against civil rights for trans people; she continues to argue against our rights to change our bodies – actions which keep many of us alive. This is hate speech, pure and simple, and should not be condoned in the name of any creed – and particularly not in the name of feminism.
The message of her most recent post seems to be, to quote Greta Garbo, “I want to be alone”. I suspect that she has, once again, misinterpreted the situation and is now confusing solitude with self-imposed isolation. And the irony of a woman who appears to court publicity at any cost, using the platform of a national newspaper to voice a request to be left alone is not lost. But, it must be said that, given the hurt and distress she has caused many trans people with her ignorant and spiteful words, it is tempting simply to wave her off as she packs her spotted hanky on a stick and walks into the sunset.
However, I am not convinced that such a dramatic exit is an acceptable end to the matter. The subject is far from closed and there are too many loose ends left untied. So I propose an alternative course of action: I suggest that she stays and – finally – enters fully into the debate, as she has so often indicated she wants to do. And it seems to me that this would be the ideal opportunity for our cis feminist friends and allies to meet the challenge and join with us to ask her, once more, the hard questions to which she has singularly failed to respond in the past.
Photos are taken from onequeerone’s Stonewall Protest photo set and used in compliance with the Creative Commons License for non-commercial use.
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9.30pm Thursday: Home from the Stonewall protest, this is very quick and sketchy; I’m sure that Sarah will write the definitive report, she’s a good writer and was at the front so probably saw way more than me…
So Sarah was there, obviously, also the_local_echo, Zoe Imogen, Natacha, Roz Kaveney, Michael Tgo, Col Cruise (the Trans Film Fest organizer) and loads of folks I recognized but couldn’t name – think I saw Denise A… Some Trans Youth Network people from London and a couple from Manchester… oh, a few faces from the FAF workshop… and I can’t leave out my friend Youngsook, postgrad student extraordinaire…
Zoe early on reckoned we were at least 90 in number so there’s an excellent chance we hit the 100 mark at least – think I heard someone say we were probably the largest protest by trans people in Britain ever, yay history in the making…
JB Fan Club (according to Zoe) numbered 12. Yes, twelve. And they left as soon as JB had gone inside. She was there early and walked straight past, whoosh gone – so I’m told, I didn’t see her.
And as far as I know, no sign of the rumoured third protest (anti-gay religious right)
But a good natured crowd, it was interesting to see our diversity… Saw loads of anti-Stonewall posters and no JB posters… Much noisy chanting but no violence (well duh) so the maybe 15 or so police officers were quite underemployed.
A few independent photographers but none from any recognized press or radio/television… The woman from AbsolutQueer says her photos will be up on her site later for use by the trans community – she said she wanted to record it separately in case any other less representative images turn up… I hope there are better pics than my blurry dark cellphone ones… Think Zoe took millions so watch out for those too.
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- Stonewall awards protest
- Julie Bindel’s statement
- Stonewall UK, celebrity journalists and GLB transphobia
- Transphobe Bindel Nominated as Stonewall’s Journalist of the Year
ETA, Friday morning 7 November: I’m hurriedly trying to catch up on stuff from last night, so this is a bit of a stream-of-consciousness interim post (another one!) between First Coffee and work… I’ll try and update later on…
There’s no mention of the protest that I could see in this morning’s Metro (free paper), and Google has only turned up this Pink News piece… Seems like Ms Bindel didn’t even win, after all that. (Miriam Stoppard, for the record).
So where does that leave the trans community? Ms Pessimistic here, I know, but as far as I can see, we’re in much the same place we were before, really. I’m not saying the protest was worthless, far from it – we needed the Stonewall people to see a lively, protesting trans presence to drive home the point, and we did that, no question – but otherwise?…
Can I start thinking in terms of First and Second Wave trans women? Not sure where trans men are in this for all the usual historical reasons, but it seems that trans women are split into two factions one of which is, effectively, the trans establishment – or would like to see themselves as such – eg daft quotes from people along the lines of “I thought I spoke for all trans people” – well duh! actually, no, you don’t – we speak for ourselves and join together for the big stuff. It’s called diversity, I think you’ll find. And equality. It includes, like, acceptance of each other for who we are, not who an unrepresentative minority would like us to be.
The other strand is, I think – well, at least, for me – very well outlined in the essay Where did we go wrong? Feminism and trans theory – two teams on the same side (written by a younger and, arguably, less complacent Stephen Whittle, several years ago). It’s primarily about how trans people and feminists can find areas to agree on and it’s become really important to me. He says some really good things, principles that could be easily applied in the Stonewall context, particularly when you remember that Ms Bindel identifies as a feminist. (Also Julia Serano’s Rethinking Sexism: How Trans Women Challenge Feminism is well worth re-reading. As is Cedar’s excellent essay, Beyond Inclusion: Trans Women as Equal Partners in Feminism)
The difference in attitudes between what Stephen Whittle, Julia Serano and Cedar say, and the Christine Burns incident really sums up these two very different viewpoints within the trans community.
Are we (trans people) having this discussion online anywhere? If so, please can somebody link me? (Later edit: see this post by Sophia Siedlberg on the OII website). And if not – is it because I’m miles off course and just talking rubbish? Likewise – if so, please can somebody tell me? ;)
Anyway, I’m heartened by Zoe’s comment below – she reckons over 150 of us were there last night, which is really great to know, in ways that go far beyond the protest itself – I’m thinking of the networking that went on, the friends that were made – this is community building as it should be, and it can only benefit us all by helping to bring us together.
I forget who said (online somewhere) that one of the defining characteristics of the trans community is that it’s very decentralized – we don’t really hang out together in clubs and bars, etc, like, for example, the sterotype of the gay community… Now I’m going to go one further and say that another defining feature is the way we use electronic comms like the internet/blogs/email, etc, to organize, if that’s not too pretentious.
Egomaniac’s corner – I was also amazed how many people knew this blog. Not especially me particularly (which is fine) but I got a number of supportive remarks on the lines of “Oh! You’re Bird Of Paradox? Oh wow!” – I genuinely had no idea; I figured that it was pretty much just a few random people stopped by. Nice to be remembered for something I enjoy doing!
Oh and sorry for my ignorance but I’ve only just found out that the JB Fan Club = London Feminist Network. I also know that LFN are closely linked to the Reclaim The Night march; and any organization’s proclamations of being women only brings out my cautious side these days, especially when they’re silent on the subject of whether of not they include trans women in their definition.
So-o-o-o… is it unreasonable, then, to assume that, an organization like LFN – which advertises on its website a protest to support a writer of many transphobic pieces – is also likely to be in agreement with the substance of Ms Bindel’s views about trans people? And if LFN does agree with Ms Bindel’s remarks, then how is LFN any different from Stonewall, apart from in the degree of support offered? Stonewall wanted to honour Ms Bindel with an award for her hate speech, LFN asked its members to show support for Ms Bindel. But if LFN disagrees with Ms Bindel’s transphobic writings, then one can only wonder why they ran the advert. I’d love to know how that all works, but I’m not holding my breath for an answer.
I dunno, maybe I misunderstood, but I thought that feminism was about ending the oppression of women, all women, not perpetuating it. Oh wait! I forgot! Trans women aren’t real women, are we? Nope, we’re just men in dresses. How silly of me to forget that. I’m such an uppity tranny, aren’t I, not knowing my place an’ all.
Second ETA, Friday morning 7 November: Roz has posted some photos here
Third ETA, Friday evening 7 November: Additional report at Pink News. Seems like we had quite a bit of support from some of the attendees.
Outraged at the nomination of the notoriously transphobic Guardian writer Julie Bindel for “Journalist of the Year” award by Stonewall and the silence from established trans campaigning groups, the transsexual and queer communities have come together to stage an unprecedented protest outside the £125-a-head “champagne and canape reception” for the Stonewall awards at the V&A Museum in London on Thursday, 6th November 2008. In what will be a major embarrassment for Stonewall over its controversial nomination, over a hundred people are expected to be attending the protest and will be waiting outside the V&A for the arrival of the guests, including celebrities such as actor Richard Wilson, who is hosting the event and award nominee and Daily Mirror agony aunt Miriam Stoppard.
Under pressure from the community to retract the nomination, Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall labelled any retraction of the nomination an “empty gesture” and nothing more than a “publicity stunt” when speaking to some of the many people who complained to Stonewall. However, beyond vague reassurances added quietly to their web site that the nomination does not endorse all the views of the nominees, Stonewall itself has failed to comment publicly on the issue, further calling into doubt their already shaky credentials as so-called “champions of diversity”.
Speaking out against the nomination, veteran campaigner and journalist Roz Kaveney said “[Bindel] is advocating talking therapies for trans people in a way that almost entirely parallels the advocacy of talking therapies by the Christian right as a way of extirpating all LGBT people. If she does not understand that, as a lesbian, she is a turkey advocating Christmas for turkeys in an adjacent bit of the farmyard, then she is being obtuse; what she is doing is betraying not only the trans community but the entire LGBT community, and it is wrong to honour her for her other work when there is this colossal stain on her career.”
I still maintain that this whole debacle is first and foremost about Stonewall UK and not Ms Bindel, whose role in this is less central than she might like to think.
For me, the real issue remains Stonewall UK’s cynical support for a Z-list celebrity journalist’s ceaseless and violent oppression of an already oppressed minority.
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My £0.02 – I don’t believe her piece adds anything new or useful to the discussion which remains, in my opinion, primarily about Stonewall UK’s attitude to the trans community, and *not* about Ms Bindel herself, or her many, *many* words.
But given her apparent belief that it *is* about her, it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unfortunately.
Oh, and spot the dog whistles cunningly hidden in this short passage:
I believe that [the majority of the members of the transsexual community] are not interested in hearing what I have to say, but merely wish to use me as their ‘whipping girl‘, and to take all of their anger out on me. I refuse to be a scapegoat, or to be silenced by them.
Til Thursday, then, Ms B.
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Interesting article in yesterday’s Sunday Times (link here) about the Conservative party seeking advice from a marketing agency on “deciphering the female psyche”. Apparently:
The consultants use research drawn from brain science, anthropology and marketing to help their clients to improve their understanding of women consumers. Their big idea is that while men regard the world as a stadium in which they compete, women are more “altruistic” and “utopian”.
The consultants, who are close to Steve Hilton, [David] Cameron’s director of stategy, have been holding regular meetings with the Tory leadership for the past 18 months. Their influence can be seen in the Tories’ changes in marketing, political style and policies. The replacement of the “phallic” Tory torch logo with the “organic” oak tree brand was a clear attempt to create a more female-friendly image.
Partly at the suggestion of his new advisers, the Tory leader has played down traditional Conservative “masculine” subjects such as tax cuts and Europe in favour of more “feminine” issues such as maternity nurses, schools and care for the elderly.
The consultants point to scientific research which shows that while men use only part of their brains, women are more “whole-brained”.
Men are described as active, analytical, competitive and interested in things, while women are more concerned with feelings, relationships, people and empathy.
“Women have a stronger sense of moral order and justice and are, as a result, driven to improve the world at large,” the consultants write.
So are they really saying that taxation and European issues are subjects which don’t appeal to women voters, and that women can’t be analytical and “interested in things”? – whatever that means.
“Whereas men are most likely to think the nation’s most pressing issues are budget and cutting spending, women [...] are more inclined to favour social programmes and services such as education, healthcare and childcare, poverty, joblessness, environment, world hunger and the United Nations.”
The report specifically mentions the party’s intention “to woo the middle-class mothers whose votes are likely to determine the outcome of the next general election”. Given the condescending attitude which seems to pervade the strategy, it’s amazing they think that the targetted voters are even going to be able to find their way to the polling station without the help of a man, let alone manage to put one’s ‘X’ in the right box as well.
I really can’t help but wonder why politicians think that a campaign apparently based on hopelessly outmoded and inaccurate stereotypes is likely to be more successful in attracting a specific group of voters than a campaign which considers the real needs of real women in real life.
Cross-posted at The F-Word on 20 October 2008