Ok, I'm guessing that many here have heard about Julie Burchill's explosive article defending her friend Suzanne Moore against trans activists.
I'm also guessing that there are a lot of women who don't know that trans activists have been becoming increasingly influential in many areas that affect Women's Rights since the 1980s and 90s. These areas include feminist websites and blogs (such as the F word), feminist meetings and conferences, women's music festivals, in feminist literature and in academia teaching gender studies (a subject that used to be taught as women's studies) and in post-modernist and queer theory circles.
Transactivists call any resistance to their increasing influence and presence in these areas of female interest "transphobic". Discussion of gender identity as an oppressive social construct and as a threat to feminism and women's rights is also considered transphobic. Consequently, discussion of women as being a political class of people oppressed due to our sex and our reproductive capacity is becoming harder and harder for feminists to have without being accused of transphobia and bigotry. This is very very concerning.
Numerous women have been threatened or silenced by these people (for example they have been no platformed and/or picketed at feminist events or attacked and threatened after writing articles or essays discussing gender identity).
Let me be very clear that this discussion is about transactivists and people who threaten others into silence. It is not about transpeople in general (some of whom have stated that they are afraid to get involved in the controversy).
In my opinion, no matter which side of the gender identity debate one stands on, surely we can all agree that debate should be allowed to take place. One side cannot be allowed to shout down, threaten and silence the other.
The recent events are not just about differing opinions on gender identity though (or I wouldn't be bothering to post this), they are about women's right to talk about and identify sex based oppression and male supremacy, and therefore to fight against sex based oppression and male supremacy. And that is why this is an important if not vital issue for women's rights.
I think women's rights politics are reaching a pivotal moment - a moment in which we must stand up for our right to discuss our status as second class citizens as a result of the biological fact that we are female. If we can't discuss it, we don't have much hope of fighting it.
To summarise the link - a well known and influential feminist blogger has been censored for discussing the issues outlined above. She is not the first woman to be silenced by these people. I think it is about time we stood up to them.
Just before bedtime . . . a final try at explaining why cis privilege is a thing, just like racial privilege, class privilege, etc. are also things.
I think most of us would agree that all men, even those who experience oppression for other reasons (e.g. due to disability, racism, homophobia, etc.) enjoy some measure of male privilege. That is because they will never face the forms of oppression that women face just for being women. Being free of the oppression another group of people faces in my mind means that one is privileged vis a vis that group.
For those who genuinely cannot fathom how cis people (i.e. those who are not trans, even if they experience other forms of oppression like racism, sexism, classism, etc.) are in any way privileged, one way to find out would be to look at experiences shared on #transdocfail and #transjobfail hashtags on twitter. A selection of the former can be found here.
Although I may experience discrimination in accessing health care or in getting and keeping a job for other reasons (i.e. sexism, ageism), I will never, ever face the experiences described in these accounts of discrimination because I am not a trans person.
I would like to think LRD that there could be a way the differing viewpoints could be hammered out, as you say. I was stunned to discover that many feminists felt so hostile to the idea of trans women as women, or even the very existence of trans people. I figured that just as many feminists of the early 20th century were hostile to the inclusion of working class women or women of colour in the movement and just as many feminists in the 70's opposed the inclusion of Lesbians, I thought this might be something that would likewise shift with time. Now, I'm not so sure.
As both bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins have noted, in the 1970's, white feminists were only willing to include women of colour under their own terms, often at "arms length" from the main body of the feminist movement. Some wanted Black feminists to "tone down" their concerns about sexism AND racism, so not to alienate those white feminists who weren't prepared to engage with what they saw as "diversions" from the main focus of feminism. Not surprisingly, many Black women (as hooks describes) found more solidarity in the Civil Rights movement, even through they felt they had to put up with a measure of sexism as a price. Others felt unable to call themselves feminists because of the main body of feminism's rejection of their lived experiences, so chose the term "womanist" to describe their political identity. Some did a bit of both. Many still feel there is no real place for them within feminism even - that their lived experiences still aren't regarded as "authentic" in the same way as those of white feminists are.
I don't think it's a coincidence that womanists / feminists of colour are more likely to be inclusive of trans women than feminists toward the radical end of the spectrum, who are mostly white. You could hear the disgust, and shouts of "white feminist fail," from blogs by women of colour when Suzanne Moore misleadingly tried to invoke the writings of bell hooks to claim that intersectionalism was divisive and shut down debate.
Must leave this now. I know by know how these things go. Night night.
I think making parallels is a natural thing to do and often a useful way to help us think about how we behave. So it is useful to say, feminists in the early 20th century acted in a certain way towards working class women, does that parallel what's going on here.
But it's not a proof that the two situations are the same, or comparable.
In the same way, while I can read all of the descriptions of what cis privilege feels like to people, and I can totally accept those people are feeling something real, I can't see how it's different from what women face every day. So I cannot see how women can exert cis privilege. Obviously, that may well be my blind spot, but simply drawing suggestive parallels isn't enough to convince me. Not enough to make me decide it'd be ok for me to accept an imposed label that I feel 'others' me.
I would just like the space and freedom to discuss this without getting told it's 'transphobia'.
Is it impossible to move beyond this reasoning 'I can draw a parallel between your activities and something nasty, therefore you are a bigot'?
Btw, having now read the link ... I do think the very good points are made problematic because the writer comes across as personally angry and keen to upset individuals. But then, if it's true JB is now the subject of a criminal investigation and Cathy Brennan has been getting death threads, it's not like I can't see why.
Whether one thinks that cispriviledge exists or not, the fact is that women are being silenced (and not only from speaking about gender, women like Bindel, Jeffreys, etc are being harassed for speaking about women's rights in general by transactivists) . And notice that it is women who are being treated like this, not men. Not men, the ones who run the show, the ones who benefit from gender, the ones responsible for the vast vast majority of violence and hate against transpeople because they are trans. Men are not being challenged on this issue. And yet men are the ones who hold cisprivilege and who benefit from it.
Women are being targeted because we are expected to fulfil our socialized role and act submissive when told what to do, what to say, what is acceptable or not and which rights we are to be afforded. Women are expected to passively allow our very selves to be defined by others. We are expected, as the lower status group, to submit.
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?
These posts really shook me to read, so I can't begin to imagine how the women who were the subjects of this felt. It feels pretty bitter to me that I've heard from a lot of sources recently that Burchill's language would never be used to any other group. Never? It seems to be the standard register of language used about women.
I think this sort of treatment is exactly why women end up in that socialized role of feeling we're meant to be accepting and agreeing all the time.
And do people really think that it is transphobic to discuss gender identity as a social construct and to state that male bodied persons are not exactly the same as biological females and that the two therefore have different needs and political identities?
Because that is what we are talking about here.
Human females are accorded lower status in patriarchy than human males. We are afforded lower status due to our biology. Our political class and status is linked to our biology, directly.
We must be allowed to talk about our biology, our reproductive capacity and the oppression and discrimination which we suffer as a direct result thereof. We must also be able to challenge gender, gender roles, gender stereotypes and gender identity for the oppressive and controlling socio-structural-political constructs they are.
And it is perfectly possible to do so whilst respecting a transperson's rights to adopt the gender they wish, and whilst respecting a transperson's human and civil rights.
The Internet can be a horrible place and people can hide behind the anonymity and say some awful things. It's all so easy and people can say some truly disgusting things about other people - including gendertrender and I'll guess other websites as well.
The thing about Burchill's article is - it was in a National newspaper. Not a blog or a hate website but in a respected national newspaper.
I hate language like that being used against anybody - it doesn't help any argument and just adds to the hate. I've seen enough language like that used against transsexuals this week, and I have no doubt it's used against other people and groups as well.
I'm glad the language in the article was challenged. I do think that gender identity can be discussed but I do wish it could be discussed with less anger. I think Kritiq has it spot on. Like I've said plenty of times, most of us want to exist and to try to get on with our lives.
This whole area of discussion reminds me of how the coalition has repositioned the debate around benefits by focusing on "scroungers". The fact that there are some people who abuse the benefits system has functioned to reposition, e.g. disabled people as other, and to make it seem as if the onus was on them to justify themselves rather than the onus being on society at large to find ways of accommodating the challenges that their needs present. Similarly, the fact that there are some transactivists who behave badly functions to reposition transpeople as obstacles rather than allies in resisting gender oppression.
The real and painful problems that transgender people face are huge, and as Kim says, the number of transactivists presenting an intolerant face in the feminist movement is small -- and, crucially, the amount of danger and damage to women from transactivism is tiny compared with the whole burden of sexism and misogyny in other areas of society.
The effect of this area of discussion, like the effect of the "scroungers," debate is to divide the disempowered. Also, it seems to me that what hatefulness there is in the fallout between feminism and some transactivists has more to do with the dynamics of small activist movements and of internet conversation than it has with feminism or transgender themselves.
I note that one all the other boards, when people use words like "coloured" or "half caste" or "retarded" or "mentally handicapped" they are picked up in a flash, even when it's pretty clear that they meant no malice, they didn't realise it was an unacceptable term or whatever. It is always explained that even if you don't see the term as racist / disablist / other, the people^in question do and it's their call.
Here, though, women are expected to simply accept an imposed label ("cis women"), and be told, "it's not at all pejorative, you know" and be asked "why are you getting upset about a term which is used in GCSE chemistry".
Oh, I don't know grey - to be fair, you do always get some people arguing that they should be perfectly entitled to call people 'retards' or 'coloured' because they're not personally offended by it and mean it well. It's exactly the same logic.
Sorry, I'm honestly not being picky, but can you run that past me again kim?
You mean people use words like 'bitch' and 'cow' on MN? If so - true. They do. And not even necessarily because women do anything 'wrong' (not sure what anyone could do that'd make it ok to call them names).
Any group of activists is going to have people in them who are fucking annoying, be that trans activists or feminist activists, or pretty much any group of people. It should be able to be talked about reasonably, but that seems to be beyond many
From Julie Bindel on the subject of transactivism intimidation tactics;
Last year, I was nominated for the Stonewall Journalist of the Year award. This seemed fair enough since I write prolifically about sexuality and sexual identity. But I guessed that Stonewall would not dare give me the prize, because a powerful lobby affiliated with the lesbian and gay communities had been hounding me for five years. Six weeks later I, along with a police escort, walked past a huge demonstration of transsexuals and their supporters, shouting "Bindel the Bigot". Despite campaigning against gender discrimination, rape, child abuse and domestic violence for 30 years, I have been labelled a bigot because of a column I wrote in 2004 that questioned whether a sex change would make someone a woman or simply a man without a penis. Subsequently, I was "no platformed" by the National Union of Students Women's Campaign, a privilege previously afforded to fascist groups such as the BNP. As a leading feminist writer, I now find that a number of organisations are too frightened to ask me to speak at public events for fear of protests by transsexual lobbyists.
I think we need to stop pretending that we are looking at a small number of internet extremists. We aren't.
Women are no longer allowed to identify as a political class which suffers oppression as the result of our sex. That is what all this ultimately means. And make no mistake that none of this will affect the higher status political class that is men, because it won't, not one jot.