Just posting from Radfem 2013 with the MN feminists - couple of interesting comments :-)(326 Posts)
I'm just posting because I'm at a conference with a few MN feminists. We've just been to a panel about feminist parenting, and the others are chatting with other feminist mums.
I've been listening in on the discussion mostly on account of not having any children - which is why I'm posting on MN instead of talking - but a couple of women mentioned the old stereotype of MN being full of anti-feminist middle-class white mothers who only talk about nappies. And a couple of FWR regulars were saying that we're actually quite nice. So, I am hoping maybe people who were at the conference will come to check out this section.
Or maybe they won't, but if they do - hello! :-)
Hello anyone out there! I am white and middle class, but will only talk about nappies if you specifically ask me and I will get bored quite fast .
Interested to know what was said about feminist parenting LRD. Been tormenting myself today with a thread on gender stereotyping amongst toddlers.
Is there much to talk about with nappies?
I'd love to hear more about the feminist parenting. I'm sure there was a course on this topic in London run by MN Academy. I might be havering though. I've no idea what I 'am' but I'm pretty sure I don't fit the middle class, nappy talking anti-feminist stereotype. Nappies are well behind me anyway
If you use reusable nappies there can be.
Mumsnet Academy is bloody expensive and sadly will only make the middle class stereotype worse!
Are you kidding?
Nappies have endless ruck opportunities.
b) lazy mother syndrome
c) holier-than-thou mother syndrome
d) the politics of housework - who washes the nappies?
That's just off the top of my head, I'm sure there's more.
Tunip I agree, it's also located so far away if the price wasn't a barrier, then the location was!
Are you enjoying the conference LRDtheFeministDragon ?
I'd like to know more about feminist parenting. Disposables are surely a great thing for working mothers whilst washables make you feel like you are doing your bit to bring down the patriarchal capitalists. What's best?
We both shared nappy duties and nappy bin emptying duties.
Sorry, I started the thread then lost my internet. I'm on the train now.
The feminist parenting bit was possibly the weakest session, actually, as I think they were running short on time and there was a bit of a mix up between the organizers wanting to run sessions one way, and the speaker who'd planned it a different way. But there were quite a few people asking about it and lots of the stuff they were saying was stuff we discuss on here all the time, which made me think what a good resource MN is.
There was a lot of discussion about feminist parenting of boys. I expect people who were discussing that who're FWR regulars will say it much better than I can, though.
Oh, and also - how cool is this? - there were some women who want to set up a political 'Feminist Party'. They don't mean they think they'll get MPs elected tomorrow (!) or anything, but they made the point that just having the name on the list of political parties would help people think of there being an alternative to Condem/Labour/Ukip. I thought that was really interesting.
I apologize for sidetracking from nappies to politics, but I feel there's a natural link from the contents of nappies to the contents of Cameron's policies.
Well we certainly need alternatives to the major three, in fact anything that isn't UKIP would get my vote. Any party that has enough members and support can really help to lobby pressure on the other parties for change. It's a great idea.
Interesting idea - but won't it possibly end up a bit like The Life of Brian with The People's Judean Front and The People's Front of Judea?
Or is there enough common ground?
I would say that I've definitely noticed a resurgence of feminism - Is it because I'm just more aware now and notice it a lot more in the media or is there a real surge at the moment?
I think there can be enough common ground when it comes to putting forward ideas for change into the mainstream.
I think it's both Kim.
There has been a resurgence. It's incredible.
Though what's less wonderful is that a lot of it is in response to things getting worse in a lot of ways, of course.
I hope I'm not speaking out of turn here but I think the internet has a huge role to play in modern feminism on MN and elsewhere. It has given us a vantage over so much of society that we didn't have before and this has the dual effect of letting us see the distasteful (and worse) parts and also to connect with others with the same realisations.
There is a risk with anything political that internal disagreement could tear it all apart but I think there is the will and the passion to see a party formed.
I think the internet has been very empowering for many people. So much knowledge and experience that can be shared, as well as it being so incredibly quick to react - just look how quickly that T-shirt about rape was removed.
Glad you had a good day, LRD.
<waves> to any new MNers.
Interesting idea on the political party, would the purpose to be to stand against Mike Buchannan and his Menz party? Haven't heard any more on how that is progressing but seems to have died a death fairly quickly.
Glad to hear it's been a good experience. I wish I could have gone. What other panels did people go to?
(disclaimer for any RadFem people who turn up: I'm white and middle-class but I'm not a parent and would only know what to do with a nappy if it came with a manual!)
kim - it sounded as if the organizers really wanted to avoid too much policing of different feminist agendas. I can imagine it would be tricky, but I think any political party is. My issue would be how much pro-prostitution/pro-porn people would want to be involved, as that'd be a deal breaker for me. But I don't know quite what they were thinking.
Lots of people agreed with what you say about a resurgance.
odd - I agree. I think that came out really strongly, how good the internet can be. There was a lovely project someone had, to get people translating feminist resources into and out of different languages, so we could all share them very quickly and easily. So if someone writes a good blog post in Iceland, we could get it in English over here and pass it on in French or something.
I did have a good day, btw, thanks mini and sausage.
Cross post ... and fair I'm white and middle-class and disgustingly privileged and childless, too. Let us go forthwith to oppress everyone.
Of the optional panels I went to Marlyn Glen's on Politics (so this one I've been talking about), and Cathy Brennan's on Identity Politics - which was really brilliant and I had been worried I would struggle with. I didn't.
But I skipped some sessions (I went for a drink and a chat with this amazing woman who's a survivor of prostitution and is working in Ireland to help women coming out of prostitution and hopefully to bring that system down. She was lovely). So others who went to more will know more!
I went to a session on fundamentalisms, religious and other.
What was really good in that session was the contribution of the Muslim women there and their attitude to how we move forward as radfems.
The facilitator was a white woman and although she did talk about a range of fundamentalisms, not just religious, she had a fair bit to say about Islam. One of the Muslim women in the room said that hearing a non-Muslim hold forth like that made her really uncomfortable, but that she felt it was important for everyone to be able to speak about it. She was quite direct in talking about how she felt but also not in the least silencing.
What was really significant about that, to me, was that it seemed to be part of a general acknowledgement that we will have issues communicating due to our differences but we can work to get over them and move forward together.
It echoed a comment I heard a couple of times from the older women at the conference (there were lots of cool elderly lesbians who'd been active in the 2nd wave) that in the 70s and 80s there was a lot of intolerance in the movement - lots of 'you can't say that!' and calling people out for disablism and fattism etc etc, and that the future for radical feminism must involve free speech and tolerance and not silencing each other.
Rachel Moran's book is on Kindle for £2.05.
'the future for radical feminism must involve free speech and tolerance and not silencing each other'
Oh, I do hope so!
I'm glad Cathy Brennan's panel was good - must admit I've been put off her by her Twitter feed, which I find very aggressive.
I'm sure it wasn't meant that way, but 'white middle class women talking about nappies' is how feminists used to dismiss SAHMs in the 70s. At least according to my Mum, who was a feminist SAHM in the 70s.
If we are going to reinvigorate fashions from the 70s I am well up for some ABBA-style glam rock
However, overall it sounds like it was a really good event, lots of diverse opinion and I hope some of the attendees will venture over here to find out we can talk bollocks about any subject under the sun, not just nappies!
She admits she is an arsehole.
She says she does it deliberately to open up the conversation.
What I find impressive about Cathy is how often she will end up having a serious conversation with people who start off hostile. If they engage reasonably with her she will do so with them, but she does not roll over and placate when they start off being rude to her, as many do.
'I'm sure it wasn't meant that way, but 'white middle class women talking about nappies' is how feminists used to dismiss SAHMs in the 70s. At least according to my Mum, who was a feminist SAHM in the 70s.'
Yes, I'm sure there were feminists who did that, though the feminist writing from that period is far more pro-motherhood than it gets given credit for.
I think that's why we bristled so much when one of the other women there dismissed Mumsnet.
Sorry - but if that is the same Cathy Brennan who runs bugbrennan, then I find her stuff really hard to read.
That's interesting, Tunip, and good that she is willing to engage with reasonable debate.
But how does being an arsehole open up the conversation? Surely it just encourages reductive aggression on the side of her interlocutors too.
Am v. glad the conference went well.
Of course you're going to find Cathy hard to read, she says things that totally go against the core of your identity.
But then, a lot of the stuff by transwomen goes against the core of my identity because what they believe about what it means to be a woman totally conflicts with what I and many other women believe.
I think the best we can hope for is for the needs of both sides to be considered in the production of legislation etc, and both sides to be allowed their own spaces where appropriate (and if we can manage to work together on occasion too then that's great). There is an apparently irreconcilable conflict as things stand. We are not going to agree about everything.
I found her speech very good. I had expected it to be difficult, but it wasn't. I will try to talk about it if people would like? It was very interesting.
She was being self-deprecating about the 'arsehole' bit, if I understood right. She also claimed she was only speaking because she was loud. I don't think she meant either of them entirely seriously, because she was very passionate about what she was saying as well.
LRD I'd love to hear more about CB's speech if you'd like to describe it. It looked like an interesting topic on the programme.
LRD and Turnip, thanks for feeding back from RF13 - I'm kicking myself for not going now. Would love to hear more about Cathy Brennan's speech. Did either of you get to Lierre Keith's session?
I did go to Keith's session. That was also brilliant. She actually had some slides, and I asked if she might be able to make them available online, as they were so useful. So maybe that will happen. She was setting out the ways in which radical feminism is very different from either a classic right-wing or left-wing ideology.
For me personally, her speech was interesting for what she was saying about the lack of boundaries between women's bodies and the world.
She was saying that in a traditional right-wing ideology, one man needs to have access to one woman (in marriage). In a left-wing ideology, all men need access to all women (in pornography, in prostitution). And what people find difficult about radical feminism is that women are saying that there is no automatic right to access.
For me that was an important idea, because the idea of women as permeable spaces comes up a lot in my work. And the idea that women's identities blend into one another (ie., all women are basically interchangeable with one another, and not fully distinct from other categories of being), is something I come across all the time. To me, it was interesting to think that some of the ideas that postmodernists put foward about transgression always being a positive and 'empowering' activity, are really just a reiteration of these old arguments about society not seeing boundaries between women and the rest of the world.
That is really, really my interpretation though, and her handouts didn't go into the postmodernism so much.
Cathy Brennan's speech was long, so I won't be able to remember all of it and I bet other people will have thought other parts were more important. One thing that was coming over very strongly in the whole conference, was how much lesbian feminists were feeling under attack, and obviously I don't know enough about that.
Brennan started out by saying that people seem to think she wants to curtail different forms of gender expression, and this was pretty much the opposite of how she actually feels. She was making the point that she's often been mistaken for a man or addressed as a man, or asked why she dresses and looks the way she does, and her life doesn't conform at all to what people expect of her gender. So she's saying, there isn't a problem with people acting and dressing however they want.
She then spoke about the forms of discrimination and violence that she or other women might face, and we couldn't find any that weren't rooted in misogyny or homophobia - we couldn't basically find any meaningful 'cis privilege'. I thought that was a strong point coming from her, or in that conference, and it made me feel very aware of the amount of privilege I have for being someone who is married and doesn't upset the expectations of most people in terms of how women look and act.
She then got onto discussing things like the 'cotton ceiling', which I don't remember so well simply because it's an argument I should think we mostly find obvious already (if not, google cotton ceiling, but we've discussed it on here before).
In the conversation bit of her panel, what came across very strongly is how difficult it is not to be labelled as transphobic, and still to discuss things like what it is like to grow up with society treating you as a girl, what it is like to be part of the group of people who're expected to do all these things with your body that women do. Someone in the audience said that increasingly, she was finding people did not like her to speak about 'women' and 'transwomen' when she tried to make the distinction between people who've had one experience, and people who've had the other. It very much - to me - went back to what Keith was saying about the way society has always constructed women's identities and bodies as being permeable, so they can always be crowded out by something else or exchanged with something else.
It sounds great lrd, loads of interesting stuff
It was. I'm really not doing justice to it, but I am knackered.
There were lots of amazing women who'd been involved in it all in the 70s who were giving the long view. Something that was very funny (in a sad way) was that someone had a poster for Andrea Dworkin's book launch, in the 70s, which happened at the Conway Centre and was women-only.
Apparently it didn't occur to anyone to make a fuss!
"She then spoke about the forms of discrimination and violence that she or other women might face, and we couldn't find any that weren't rooted in misogyny or homophobia - we couldn't basically find any meaningful 'cis privilege'."
Probably because you did not have any trans people there discussing their experiences.
That may well be it, of course. It is difficult to know. But I did find her very convincing.
I think the problem is, at the moment 'cis privilege' has been invented without any consent from women like her or like me - it's equally one-sided.
My feeling is, if someone feels it's a helpful term for them - they're entitled to use it. But not to apply it to other people without their consent. And it was from that perspective that it was being discussed - that you can't simply tell a group of people they have these privileges without first checking that they actually do.
Same could therefore be said for male privilege. We would have to sound them out. We all know that those men that benefit most from having privilege, do not want to give it up and are the same men most likely to deny having it.
Yes it could Mini, I agree - privilege doesn't have to be acknowledged by the privileged person to be real. I don't think Brennan was saying that though. I understood her argument to be this:
Terrible things are happening to transwomen. The transwomen they happen to the most are very similar to the women they happen to the most - poor transwomen, transwomen of colour, and above all those working as prostitutes.
And who is perpetrating the violence against transwomen? Just the same as with all women - the people doing the beating and raping and murdering are violent men, and in particular those who sexually exploit women through the prostitution industry.
But turning this from 'men oppressing transwomen' to 'cis people oppressing transwomen' is a sleight of hand which erases that reality, just as so much male violence is disguised, and then shifts imperceptibly to 'ciswomen are oppressing transwomen', and we get told we are the oppressors and as radical feminists we are responsible for their suffering despite the fact that never, amongst all the tragic cases of transwomen being murdered, has one been killed or indeed physically attacked by a radical feminist.
In all honesty, that's probably not trans people's biggest worry. My biggest worry at the moment is not being able to find a job. I can get an interview no problem. I had 3 just before half term. That makes 12 since I transitioned.
No job. A massive part of me wonders if that is because I'm trans. The interviewers weren't men oppressing me. Just ordinary people - but were they worried about employing a trans teacher?
Feminists talk about male privilege in getting past the glass ceiling whilst women struggle in a career. I'd just like to get a foot in the door.
Wow, well I hadn't heard of the cotton ceiling before. That's a really really difficult one for me to form an opinion on. A bit like the thread a while back about disabled people and their right to purchase sex.
It must be incredibly difficult to be a trans woman and be attracted to other women who are not attracted to you because of your physical shape. But (do I mean but?) it must also be very difficult to be disabled or morbidly obese and be attracted to people who are not willing to have sex with you because they aren't attracted to your body. Is there a cotton celling for those people to break through? And what about women who aren't attractive to the men they want to have sex with?
I'd like to conclude that nobody has the right to sex with anybody. But (again) I followed a link on a blog to an email between a transwoman and a lesbian where the transwoman said that attractiveness is socially and culturally determined. So, an interesting parallel to all the
arguments discussions I've had about women being socially (rather than biologically) determined to be primarily responsible for childcare.
Maybe, arguing against the biologically determined 'women's role' is the same as arguing against the biologically determined 'sexual attractiveness' of people possessing certain body parts. But the former is arguing for greater freedom, and the latter for less freedom for women to choose who they would like to have sex with without feeling guilty?
Thanks LRD, really interesting thread. I was interested in the conference, but having read a few RadFem blogs, I was put off by all the scornful references to Nigels. I like my DH and so I felt I would not be welcome
I'd like you to get a foot in the door too - I would love you to teach my children.
It's a tricky one. Reading the awful stuff on the Daily Mail that was said about the transwoman teacher who committed suicide, it's clear that there is prejudice against trans teachers - I won't deny that. But I also know two single women with great CVs who have been unable to get teaching jobs at the moment.
Kim, that's tough I'm sorry to hear about your experiences. Are you open about your transition in interviews?
Well I've got another interview this week. It's a crap time at the moment and I have got a lot going against me - I'm old and expensive. But there is always a nagging part in my brain that just says is it because I'm trans.
And there is no way of answering that or proving it. Just like it's extremely hard to prove any kind of discrimination.
prom Now that is a good question. I was talking about this with my counsellor. Do I mention it or do they even know I'm trans? I always struggle whether to mention it or not - no one ever asks me about it when I'm on supply. Sometimes I say "obviously I'm trans but it's never been an issue at schools" and sometimes I don't mention it.
I was telling her that it's impossible for me to know what people think and what they see - I think they see a transwoman but what do they see and who do they think I am? Do they just see a woman with a slightly deeper voice?
The thing about it not being trans people's biggest worry - I think that's really interesting. Because a lot of the hostility against radical feminists is premised on the claim that we supposedly cause transwomen to be murdered by questioning gender theory as we do.
There was a recent exchange on Twitter between a radfem I know and a trans-ally in which the radfem was told 'Words kill. You are fucking scum.' (Oh, the irony.)
I would love to support trans activists campaigning for an end to discrimination such as that faced by teachers, because frankly (and as a radfem) the idea that anybody gets punished for expressing gender identity in a way that confuses people ('OMG a man in a dress!') makes me furious, and I do believe it is rooted in misogyny. Radfems want an end to all this compulsory gender business.
And this is pretty much what Cathy Brennan is saying - all this 'you radfems are oppressing us by not letting us come to your meetings and calling us men!' is a massive distraction from what is really hurting people and prevents us working together to end male violence. But we also have to be allowed to discuss our experiences as women brought up as women in a culture that oppresses women because of their biology, without being told 'abortion is not a women's issue because not all women have wombs'. Or to be allowed to discuss menstruation without having to compound the taboo by being told to add trigger warnings.
Aren't trans rights organisations doing any research on it? Obviously it's hard for you as an individual to prove what was behind a particular decision, but you would think qualitative research that looked into the attitudes of the people making such decisions would be quite illuminating.
YY, agree with tunip - I would love you to be teaching my children if I had any, and it is clear you've got the passion for it that so many people don't manage.
I have not even got an interview for jobs. I have been applying for nearly a year now. We were told that for some of these jobs, there are upwards of 400 applicants for one spot, and I don't even merit an interview. I'm not qualified enough and I'm not clever enough. I don't have the added sting of worrying it is discriminatory, but I do know it's so depressing to keep applying and keep getting rejected.
prom - oh, the 'nigel' bit was the funniest thing! It turns out that 'nigel' was Shiela Jeffries' housemate in the 70s, who was in the socialist workers' party. She and her mates ended up referring to the male opinion in the debate as the 'Nigel' opinion, and it spread from there.
But actually, I didn't feel unwelcome as someone married to a man. It was really interesting, because there were groups of lesbian feminists who were getting all passionate about how in the 70s more women had felt able to come out, and they worried that it was so much harder for young women now, to find spaces in which to do that. But it was focussing on the positive side rather than the negative. The most 'negative' it got was Jeffries saying how in the 70s more women within the radical feminist movement were lesbians, whereas today the balance is shifted the other way (I think because a lot of lesbians are in LGBTQ movements and because political lesbianism is less of a thing). And she said she didn't get the sense it was because the men had suddenly got nicer since the 70s. So that was as negative as it got - and I agree with her, I think it's pretty clear that there are still plenty of misogynists out there and there were plenty of lovely men back then - it's not that that has changed.
I do think the issue about sexual attraction being culturally/socially constructed is valid. I just feel very suspicious that the pressure to overcome that social construction is all being put onto lesbians (which does seem to be the case), and of course society has always been telling lesbians their sexual identities are wrong.
This is all monstrously complicated, isn't it. I think, in search of a simpler life, I'll go back to writing the results chapter of my PhD thesis. Suddenly, the idea seems soothingly straightforward!
My last was to Turnip...
PromQueen, I have a Nigel too. Many of us there did.
I didn't feel in the least bit unwelcome as a result. You do feel a bit marginal rather than the norm when the driving force behind the whole thing is lesbians but that's probably healthy.
It really is complicated, I think.
But then on another level, it is extremely simple: I want to have freedom from the expectation that, because of my sex, I will behave a certain way, and I deserve to be treated a certain way (ie., often discriminated against).
kim wants freedom from that too, if I understand her right.
So does Cathy Brennan.
The patriarchy wants to push us all into a tiny little space and have us fight over who has the rights to it. That is what they are doing and it is working beautifully.
I do find some of the radfem blogs unpleasantly, and unnecessarily, nasty about women with their Nigels. Perhaps in the same way that some women feel that we, on the FWR board, try and tell them they aren't the right sort of feminist! When in fact we are not trying to do that. Perhaps I need to give the Nigel haters a chance.
Ah, I dunno. I've not read the blogs.
Something I did think was obvious, was that people can come across very, very, very differently online and in person. And there is also that miasma of public opinion and gossip that hangs around some people. So you go to these things expecting to see scary radical feminists who spend all their time yelling abuse at men and stomping on male babies, then you see Julia Long dancing around with someone's toddler and it is a bit more difficult to take the 'man-hating' image seriously!
(Actually one of my favourite things about this conference was all the cute babies being passed from woman to woman. It was very sweet. )
Maybe I will go to the next one. It would be nice to meet you lot in person. I bet we all look really different from how we imagine, people always do!
One reason I left a particular radfem facebook group was because there were a number of discussions about whether a hetero woman could ever be a proper radfem. Some people do say those things.
But for me it comes back to the point I mentioned earlier, about the importance of the movement being tolerant of differences, and as LRD says it is different in RL.
I was pondering on the RL/online split recently. One reason I love Mumsnet is because of the multidimensional view we get of each other - the thing where you argue fiercely with someone in one topic and support them equally passionately in another. In RL that happens more automatically, but when you have a single issue Facebook group, that rounded understanding that leads to tolerance is harder to achieve. It's one reason why MN works and why RL activism matters.
<applauds LRD's 14.11 post>
It would be lovely to meet you too.
I did enjoy meeting everyone.
I also came away feeling very proud of MN for the same reasons.
I think it helps too that lots of us come to feminism from other things - like starting a thread where we think we're just having a quick rant about a minor issue, and then from the comments we start realizing there's a bigger picture. Or that was some of my experience at least.
I was sad we never got a chance to tell people about the Small Sexual Assaults thread.
I did feel sad we didn't get much chance to talk about some of the stuff on here. I wanted to mention the 'Let Girls Be Girls' stuff as well, and the 'We Believe You' campaign, but it's tricky to have time.
I should say, something that is really unfortunate was that because the last session was a bit rushed and miscommunicated, I don't think we got across that Mumsnet is actually quite feministy. Someone was taking notes in the session where all of us had been talking about MN, but she got mixed up between netmums and mumsnet, and ended up saying maybe rad fems should hijack sites like mumsnet with feminist ideas.
It wasn't anyone's fault that she'd got confused but it did make me groan a bit. But then there's so much of that in the ordinary media as well - everyone seems to think MN and NM are exactly the same. It really surprises me when I come across that attitude because I'm so used to MN I forget how people perceive it generally.
Is there a feminist section on NetMums?
I don't know, actually.
I may be being very unfair to NetMums. I just reckon we're fairly feministy on here.
I did feel a complete idiot when I kept hissing in her ear 'Not Mumsnet! Netmums!'
That Netmums is less feministy was illustrated rather alarmingly by that Netmums thread a few months ago with the convicted rapist and domestic abuser who wanted access to his children and a scary number of Netmums posters were on his side on the grounds that whatever he had done, he had a right to see his kids.
I doubt there is a feminist section.
Ah well. To be fair, I've seen threads on here that shocked me. Both sites are just so big, that there is going to be a huge variation in opinions. But IMO that is what is so lovely about being on here, that we do all get to chat about a wide range of things. I can be furious on here about whatever it happens to be, and then go chat about old-fashioned roses on another thread and find the same poster is telling me about her garden (this is a made up example btw, I've never had a row with any of the posters on the gardening threads so far as I remember ). It's quite hard to stereotype people as 'horrible mean feminist' or whatever, if you also chat to them about all the other stuff.
Gah. Obviously I am grinning at you hissing in her ear.
Not at rape apologists.
Oh, I spoke to her ... she was lovely (the woman who wrote it).
I think there is a feminist thread somewhere on netmums. No actual section though. I used to frequent there years ago
before I saw the light and discovered MN, and can remember the almighty stooshie that occurred when someone tried to start the debate over feminism off. The words 'lead balloon' spring to mind. I like MN and it's feministyness
Fab time at RadFem2013. I was late on the Sunday so missed Femi and Sheila, really hope they will post their talks online somewhere.
I just love my new keyring which I bought there. It says "Sisters before Misters".
I wore my Radfem2013 sticker on my jacket all the way home, and, lo and behold, a seat to myself on a crowded train.
I just looked at Cathy Brennan's twitter page (https://twitter.com/bugbrennan) and found it full of gems like these:
'Trans activism consists of thinking of new ways to insult women'
'Let's talk about how much hate transwomen have for women. Sorry about your dick. It's not our fault.'
'Nothing confirms that transwomen are men quite like meeting with women only.'
Then l looked at her blog (bugbrennan.com/) and found it full of articles about "stupid queers" and "violent queers".
Sorry, but this person is really obsessed with verbally bashing transwomen and "queers" (whoever she thinks queers are - I'm not exactly sure). And I can't help but wonder, why is belittling these other groups of people so crucial to her feminist identity?
I'm totally repulsed. She's welcome to her woman-only space but no thanks, it's not the kind of feminist space where I would feel at home.
I wouldn't say those things myself, but I get why she's saying them. Have you see some of the things said to her? She'd be a saint if she never retaliated.
Btw, by 'queers' she means people who're identifying as 'queer' in the queer theory sense (if I understand it rightly). This is something that bothers me too, quite a lot. I'll go into what was said at the conference if anyone's interested (because it is interesting, and gets into postmodernism as well). But in a nutshell, it's pretty easy to erase lesbian identities by using queer theory.
I do feel really uncomfortable with reading this stuff, and I want to say it's unacceptable ... but then I read the other side of it, and I look at the fact that there is so little we're allowed to say at all, and I can't help seeing why she does it. It's trying to make people notice what is going on.
I would like to know Malenky, especially the stuff about Postmodernism...
Cathy is basically saying 'fuck this shit' to the idea that women have to be quiet and good and passively take whatever is said or done to us without being anything other than polite.
Self-defined queers tell her they want to rape her (and her 5yo daughter), she describes them as violent. Seems fair enough to me. As women it is very hard to do anything other than shut up when people attack us. Look at what happened with that singer a few weeks ago who got sent rape threats for criticising a male artist, and she ended up grovelling and saying she was wrong.
Saying you believe that transwomen are men when you do believe that is totally taboo and unsayable for most people. It is heresy. But should it really be? Why is only one opinion allowed about what constitutes gender? Who told us it has to be about supposed brain sex, regardless of other aspects of female experience like the body and socialisation? Who decided that? She doesn't follow trans people round shouting 'You're male!' She responds to them, when they address her, by being open about her belief.
The most common Brennan myth is that she goes around maliciously outing trans children. What actually happened was that a trans-identifying teen sent her rape threats, and she told the school (IIRC the messages originated from the school computer.)
Actually, you know, I can't help thinking there is an element of lose-lose for women when talking about male violence.
If we focus on the things that are done or said to us, we are making ourselves victims. If we focus on the perpetrators we are full of hate.
What we really ought to do is just shut up and pretend it didn't happen. That would be nicer and more polite.
I remember on another thread (one of the many many...) Kim pointing out that there are a few radical trans activists who hold the don't-mention-periods etc line, but that the majority don't.
I think, in simple terms, there are raving extremist loons in all walks of life and the raving loony extremism comes out in whatever their "thing" is, be it religion, transactivism, racism etc etc.
Which is not to say it shouldn't be gainsaid or fault back against, indeed it should even more so, but I do think it's more about the person than the belief.
And one more thing (before I go and do some work), just in case anyone is wondering.
Radical feminists never have and never do advocate violence of any kind. The radfem response to the threats of violence aimed at us (and the people wishing we would be raped with broken bottles and the ones telling us to eat shit and all that stuff) is to say 'look what these guys are saying'.
Hully - yes indeed.
I know some lovely transwomen activists who have a very full understanding of the politics of the situation from everyone's side and who completely understand why we need to have separate activism as well as shared.
Unfortunately they too come under a lot of pressure from the extreme end, which dominates the conversation and tries to silence them just as it does the radfems.
hully - yes, isn't it always the issue. Brennan herself was saying that most rad fems she knows know trans people who're friends and who don't do this stuff. It's not fundamentally normal to want to be a woman and to want to spend your time saying you think a woman you dislike should be violently raped. That's the bottom line, really. It's an incredibly disfunctional and horrible dynamic.
What I don't get is why there is far more widespread knowledge of what some rad fems say to and about this minority of people, rather than what this tiny minority of people say about - I'm afraid - all radfems.
The problem, as you say, isn't the belief. But, what's happened with the legal situation and with a lot of public opinion, is that it's become very, very, very difficult to object to this minority of transsexuals as a radfem, and absolutely standard to object to radfems if you are part of this minority, or if you're an MRA, or if you're part of the 'queer' grouping, or whatever. It's not even. On the one hand you want to thank goodness it's not because no-one wishes more oppression on anyone, but on the other, you want to say, wait a minute, can we at least acknowledge this is a raw deal here?
Advocating any kind of violence is always wrong
Refusing to acknowledge any person's right to their biological identiy/pick a term is also always wrong
so on those grounds I think we can shoot them
'What I don't get is why there is far more widespread knowledge of what some rad fems say to and about this minority of people, rather than what this tiny minority of people say about - I'm afraid - all radfems. '
Surely that's as simple as the fact that the anti-radfem message has the assistance of all the other groups who don't like radfems, to amplify it? The MRAs, the porn industry (who have masses of money), not to mention all those blokes on the internet who like telling feminists how to do feminism and get cross when we point out we don't need them to lead our movement.
After all, it wasn't trans activists on their own who got the original Radfem2013 venue changed. It was MRAs using trans rights as a cover and transactivists were happy to work with them on that (though we get accused for bigotry for pointing this out).
I am taking refuge in a spot of cognitive dissonance. What I mean is, it should be incredible. It isn't, but it should be.
I've got to say, I don't see (genuinely, this time) why anyone wouldn't be shocked and horrified by what they hear radfems like Brennan say, when they don't hear the other side of it. I mean, you would be.
It's true what Tunip said. If you post anything on a trans site even vaguely trying to see the Rad Fem (or a different) point of view, you can get very quickly flamed. It can make AIBU look tame.
There are some very polarised views and it's hard to engage with such views.
I think people are really threatened by what they think radfem means, and see radfems as aggressors whereas poor trans folk are unhappy victims of life that we need to try and be tolerant about.
I really wish I'd been able to come now! Fingers crossed for next year. Perhaps I'll bring some of my new German friends with me! Sorry to jump ahead but is it planned for June again?
I can believe that kim. We do need a space where we can all discuss this stuff.
hully - I think that's true. I'm now getting well out of my knowledge area so kim may well correct me, but I think the people who think like that (ie., don't really analyse) aren't doing transsexuals many favours either. I mean, I know people who seem to think a sex change operation would be like waving a magic wand, and you'd suddenly be happy and fulfilled and never need any kind of support ever again. That seems a bit like saying 'awww, poor people ... they need a quick fix solution so I don't have to think about it any more'.
Surgery does not solve everything. You still feel like there's a massive part of your life you've missed out on and the fact you will never have a fully functioning female body and all that comes with it - I know some of you will probably never understand why anyone would want to have that as you see it as part of the oppression (Why would anyone want monthly cycles).
Trans people realise that they will never have had the same experiences as the sex their brain tells them they are. Surgery, appearance changing etc will never turn back the clock and give me those experiences.
And that's kind of hard. Which probably goes someway to understanding the very high trans suicide rate.
I don't know how that feels, kim
if I'm honest, I think we all have our crosses to bear and we just have to make the best of it and get on with it as best we can. Life is very short.
For instance (and I hope this doesn't sound quite as mad as I fear), I was listening to Radio 4 just now to the woman who wrote The Wave, who lost her husband, two dc and parents in the tsunami and couldn't move from a dark room for two years.
There is terribleness and unfairness everywhere and we musn't let it define who we are.
I'm not sure anyone thinks monthly cycles are oppressing her! It's just biology, not something anyone is doing to us.
What oppresses us is the way they are constructed within a patriarchal society, so menstruation becomes taboo and we are considered dirty for it, or the pain is seen as something we should put up and shut up about.
I can imagine feeling like I desperately want to have those things, and I can see that it may be extremely painful not to, but what I am sceptical about is the sleight of hand that turns people who possess them into a privileged class even while we are oppressed for having them. It looks like an extremely neat way to prevent women talking about that oppression.
(And NB I am not suggesting it is a cunning plan by devious transpeople to shut women up, but I think it suits the patriarchy very well to hitch their wagon to that particular horse and blame women for trans suffering, rather than be forced to deal with the actual violence and discrimination the patriarchy inflicts on transwomen through its punishment of people who don't fit into one of 2 simple gender boxes.)
YY, agree, I've never heard anyone suggest monthly cycles are 'oppressive' and TBH I find that quite an upsetting thought. It's biology.
Otherwise, what hully and tunip said.
Maybe I was expressing myself wrong. I think I was trying to explain more along the way that as the people who can get pregnant, it's the fact that women are seen as the primary child carers and this is what holds women back in society.
To me, you are lucky you are able to get pregnant. But it's not your fault I can't do that.
Actually ... I am really struggling here ... seriously, kim, did you think radical feminists - or any feminists - actually thought that periods were a form of oppression? I'm not having a go, I'm just so surprised and it does seem relevant given how much it seems we miscommunicate.
If people out there have been thinking that radical feminists locate some of the oppression they face within their own bodies, within their own biology, I suppose it must seem utterly confusing that we're not falling over ourselves to agree with transactivists. Is this a popular understanding of radical feminism?
Because I would think it is totally the opposite. It makes me angry that society treats women's bodies as something to be ashamed of or attacked, but that makes me protective of us and our bodies, it certainly doesn't make me see them as oppressive.
But then .. the recent issue with periods (as I understand it) was that some lasses were tweeting when they had their periods as a kind of Judy Blume-esque 'let's all respect our bodies' thing, and they were told they were being transphobic. Even if people thought that those girls were somehow tweeting about periods to say 'look how our bodies oppress us', I still don't see why that would have been transphobic. It would have been very sad, IMO, but sad for the girls primarily.
Yes, lucky me.
I was trying clumsily to try and make some kind of link to the fact that society oppresses women primarily due to the fact that they can bear children. And the monthly cycle is part of that.
Nothing transphobic about talking about it. I had no idea about those tweets or the response.
I apologise if I offended or upset you. Nothing was meant by it.
I wasn't upset or offended Kim, I just didn't want to let it stand in case people read it and thought that was what radfems thought and it became another stick to beat us with! You know how it is.
It seems to me that the 'fully functioning female body' that you're talking about, kim, is a wishful construct that doesn't exist. If it is cis privilege to have been born female because you can get pregnant, then cis privilege is a fairly bitter joke when you look at the stats for how many of us can't get pregnant, or get pregnant and miscarry repeatedly, or get pregnant with foetuses that will never survive, or get pregnant and die or become severely injured in labour.
The patriarchy would love to pretend that this 'fully functioning female body' did exist, and that if women don't live up to the ideal, it's somehow their fault (they didn't consider themselves 'pre-pregnant' enough, or whatever). The patriarchy also resists the idea that we need to support non-ideal female bodies, which are actually quite normal, so there isn't enough funding and enough acceptance of the things I'm describing above.
But it is simply female biology that our bodies don't fit this ideal, and it seems to me that envying an idealized version of it where you simply say 'you are lucky to be able to get pregnant' is glossing over the realities of it.
It's not that I don't see what you're saying. Many women born women get pregnant and have babies and it's all lovely and wonderful. And I think we all envy them. But no-one knows when she starts trying to have a baby, which camp she'll be in.
This is why I struggle with the idea that discussing biology could ever be transphobic, and why I'm glad you're saying it's not a normal reaction (if I understand you right).
And btw, I do think it matters (and I think this is what you're saying?) that women born women are expected to be the ones who get pregnant and have the babies, and it is on these grounds they're oppressed, even if they never do have babies.
However I think we also have to remember that it's not a trade-off, where women get oppressed but also get the benefit of being able to get pregnant and have babies. For a lot of women, it's that they get oppressed, and they don't get the lovely idealized 'fully functioning female body'.
I totally agree with Hully here:
I think, in simple terms, there are raving extremist loons in all walks of life and the raving loony extremism comes out in whatever their "thing" is, be it religion, transactivism, racism etc etc.
And no, condoning or threatening violence is never acceptable. I'm sure that violent transwomen and queers exist, and they're wrong. That said, Brennan's statements are themselves extremely violent-sounding and inflammatory. She also consistently uses language that implies she is referring to ALL transwomen or ALL 'queers' rather than a small, loony minority within those groups.
LRD mentioned starting a women's political party. Much as I like the idea, I wouldn't be able to support any political party that propagated hate speech about minority groups in this way.
'Queer' can also mean lots of different things according to the context. In some circles it's simply used as a synonym of gay or lesbian.
There's a real contradiction between Brennan saying that she rejects any identity imposed on her by society, and then attacking 'queers', because the term queer (in the 'queer theory' sense) was coined as one possible way for people to describe themselves when they want to embrace an identity NOT imposed on them by society. So in theory it seems to me that rad fems like Brennan and self-described queers should have a lot in common - they are both objecting to roles assigned to them by patriarchal/heteronormative society. But obviously not!
Brennan is very keen on putting people into the right pigeonholes, it seems to me. If you fit her definition of a woman, then you are free to assert your own identity in your own way, but if you are too trans or queer or whatever, you're excluded and given a pejorative label. She's entitled to her own views, of course, but as I say, I prefer a more inclusive brand of feminism.
That's a bit weak, if you'll forgive me.
She's had people tell her they want her to die in a fire, get raped brutally, etc. etc. That is 'violent'. I'm not sure saying 'sorry about your dick', crude as it is, is 'violent'.
Bit of a double standard here.
I think she knows 'queer' can mean gay or lesbian, btw.
(I feel really weird here saying 'I think she knows' as I don't want to pretend to speak for anyone else.)
But ... I never heard her say she rejects any identity imposed by society.
Why do you think she does?
I think she rejects the denial of her identity by a section of society. And I agree with her there.
Sorry, but it really is a lie to say she's pigeonholing people. Or that radical feminism is. I will demonstrate in a moment how that one works.
If I post, now, saying 'I don't mind how other people define themselves, but I refuse to be defined as 'cis' and my own personal definition of 'woman' is 'a person born with a vagina', that is right on the edge of what MNHQ will/won't delete.
I'm putting it in a separate post in case someone fancies reporting it and they do delete it (though I hope they won't since I'm trying to illustrate something here).
But if I make a distinction between 'women' and 'transwomen' in order to clarify that I see myself as a woman because I was born with a vagina, and I don't see myself as a woman because of my gender identity, in many contexts, I will be silenced. And I am really not a particularly 'call a spade a spade' type who usually gets into trouble for her language.
It all gets very monty python and paper bag with gravel for dinner
no one has it easy
Yeah, I get that hully, but I'm not posting to whine 'wah wah, MNHQ could delete me', that's not the point (and as oppression goes, you know, much as I love OliviaMN I don't feel she's up there with the patriarchy quite).
I'm just trying to explain that there set of social pressures that we recognise are discriminating against women in all other walks of life don't magically disappear when women come into contact with other minority groups. Many women are members of more than one minority group anyway.
OK, I'm not going to sift through Brennan's webpages to pull out the most violent bits. Nonetheless her speech is hate speech. It's designed to be inflammatory. Rape threats against her are deplorable, but that doesn't justify hate speech against ENTIRE GROUPS OF PEOPLE. It's like Daily Fail talk: "Immigrants blah-blah", "Muslims blah-blah". If you read the entire article you find that the story is about specific individuals, but the headlines are designed to stir up rage at a whole minority group.
Maybe I misphrased the identity thing. I don't want to put words in her mouth, either. Both rad fems and 'queers' reject the traditional sexual roles imposed on them by society. Or am I wrong about that?
MNHQ would delete that? Really? Wow. I don't think it's hate speech to say "I believe I'm a woman because I was born with a vagina". I just disagree with that definition of women, that's all.
I'm still curious as to whether rad fem conferences have to do genitalia checks at the door.
No no, I mean the thinking other people's lives are shimmering with rosiness and advantages.
Everyone thinks someone else is more fortunate in one way or another.
Soz, was following own train of thought rather than thread!
marfisa, have I understood? You don't accept the definition of woman is a human born with a vagina?
marfisa - it's not that I don't get where you're coming from. It's that I'm bemused you feel the need to put 'entire groups of people' in capitals, as if somehow lesbians, or radical feminists, or women, are not 'entire groups of people?
No, they didn't do a genitalia check. But then it was open to transwomen IIRC.
hully - ah, yes, take your point, sorry.
Though natch I am shimmering, rosy and advantageous.
Apologies for linking to the lunatic fringe, but, well ...
Draw your conclusions, eh.
I'm belabouring this point because I am now getting quite tired of people assuming it's all the nasty rad fems. My natural tendency is the same as yours, marfisa, to see an isolated comment and want to start lecturing the perpetrator on how s/he is making it much worse by lowering her/himself to that level, etc. etc.
But then I look at the context and I feel a bit irritated it's all directed one way.
there are a truly frightening amount of barking people in the world.
Barking people coming at the debate from every possible angle.
What is scary is when it becomes normalised. Obviously.
Marfisa, I'm genuinely interested to know what words you'd use to describe rape threats to children and those involving broken bottles if you consider Cathy Brennan's posts to be 'extremely violent'.
I've been wondering about this all through the school run.
Inflammatory - perhaps. Extremely violent - I struggle to see why you describe them that way other than that you are using a double standard in which women's words are judged on a different scale to men's.
Oh, they are hugely inflammatory. They're obviously intended to be.
But the issue is, you can be as un-inflammatory as you like and you still find people who are burying their heads in the sand about the vague possibility that radfems might have any sort of point, or right to discuss that point.
I never meant to imply that all forms of violent language are equal. Yes, threatening to rape someone is much worse than calling someone a dick or saying that someone has a dick.
And violent language against rad fems or against women is just as disturbing and unacceptable as violent language against transwomen or queers. The point is that no one on this thread (as far as I know) have condoned the behaviour of the transwomen who threatened to rape Cathy Brennan. If anyone does condone it, I'll jump to the head of the queue to object. But people ARE defending Cathy Brennan and condoning/rationalising her hate speech. That's what I find objectionable.
Hully: nope, a transwoman is a woman in my book.
Yes ... I'm defending Cathy Brennan because what she said was not as bad as what the transwoman who threatened to rape her said.
You don't seem to get it. You say you get that not all forms of 'violent' language are equal, but then you're ticking us of for not responding to them in an equal way?
And I don't think that conference was open to transwomen. Not according to some of the statements made on Brennan's twitter feed.
Right. So "not as bad" equals "OK"?
It was open to radical feminists.
I don't know what would have happened if a transwoman had popped up and said 'I'm a radical feminist, I believe in the aims of radical feminism, and I want to come.'
But no-one did AFAIK. And I do know transwomen who self-define as radical feminists but they are also people who get the issues around all-female space and support the right of women to all-female activism, so they wouldn't have wanted to.
You said, ' I'm defending Cathy Brennan because what she said was not as bad' ...?
I find it incredible and shocking that a transwoman would say such things. I've heard transwomen say some horrible things about Rad Fems but never heard such threats though.
I would hope no one would want to threaten anyone with rape. It's the internet though and there are some pretty screwed up and nasty people out there.
I'm defending Cathy Brennan because I do not agree that a woman has no right to reply when hate speech is aimed at her.
Is that what you believe Marfisa?
I also do not agree it is hate speech to hold a different view about gender from queer theorists, and to dare to state that view publicly.
Isn't that the truth, kim.
Keyboard warriors, innit ? So much easier to voice an extreme opinion or threats from behind the safety and anonymity of an internet blog/forum.
I disagree with a lot of Brennan's views but I do admire the fact that she's prepared to put herself out there. And she does get a shedload of provocation that sometimes she seems to have a kneejerk reaction to.
I don't think the view that woman = biological woman is necessarily a radfem one, I think it's quite a mainstream view and it's a shame that a lot of valuable discussion is shouted down as radfem and extreme. The hating between the radfem and trans extremists means the discussion isn't had which is a shame IMO.
You know what though, I can take a few nutty transactivists or equally nutty transallies telling me to eat shit or that they hope I get raped.
What really makes me upset is when feminists who most of the time are in the mainstream totally refuse to see how they are operating double standards in the behaviour they expect from radfems and transactivists/allies.
Rape threats are deplorable. Thank you. But if we dare to name what they have said or God forbid, respond to them in any way, our words are hate speech.
and now I'm leaving the thread to cuddle my children and try to calm down.
I don't know what would have happened if a transwoman had popped up and said 'I'm a radical feminist, I believe in the aims of radical feminism, and I want to come.'
I am pretty sure what Cathy Brennan would have said, Tunip. And it would have been along the lines of 'You're a man with a dick.'
I'm signing off now, for the time being anyway, because I think we're starting to go round in circles a bit. And while I disagree with Brennan and find her inflammatory language upsetting, she is not my public enemy number one. That would be, ahem, the patriarchy. Which I am undoubtedly part of with my queer-supporting post-structuralist gender-questioning ways.
"You're a man with a dick"
I just think that ^^ is rude. I don't think it's hate speech. It's just a really crude way of voicing what many think. There are times where it's not relevant to anything so shouldn't be said and there are times where it is relevant but could be said so much better.
Sorry if I stressed you out, Tunip. That wasn't my intention.
Blistory, I tried to explain what I think of as hate speech. To me, it's making big generalisations about entire groups of people. And Brennan's twitter feed is absolutely chock full of pejorative statements that begin with, "Trans-activism is X", "Transwomen are X", "Queers are X", "Queer theory is X". It's the rhetorical force of statements like that that I object to. Compare "Jews are X", "Women are X", "Rad fems are X", said by people who are not themselves Jews or women or rad fems - that would be equally offensive.
Women are complicated and diverse. So are transwomen. So are queers. Trying to label one whole group of human beings at one go is precisely the strategy that patriarchy has used for millennia.
I am going now. Really.
Since we are at the 'signing off' stage and this debate does become circular, would anyone like to know about other stuff that was interesting at the conference? I know I said I'd get into the postmodernism but it will lead us straight back to the trans stuff, so for now I'll leave that.
One thing I wanted to come back and tell you about was a little throwaway line in Shiela Jeffries' speech that I found interesting. She was observing that that fewer than 4% of train drivers are women (just to take an example of a job that is seen as a good, solid, blue-collar job that would bring you more security and status than many). And she said that it's telling how, broadly, we've found women are allowed to get into jobs where they can wear high heels ... but not jobs like this, where they can't. Ie., women who're working class have fewer options to get into male-dominated jobs.
I thought that was really interesting given that a few months ago someone on here linked to a report on the 'feminization of poverty' which was saying how increasingly women take on jobs that are not well paid, tend to be hire-and-fire, and don't build up skill portfolios.
So far so predictably depressing, I guess. But what was really funny was that someone (*basil*? I forget, but it was a MNer) had just told me that there are some train drivers who've recently been banned from wearing shorts as it's unprofessional, so the men all took advantage of the dress code and started wearing skirts to keep cool in the summer! It's funny, but it's also interesting that there seem to be two very opposite impulses in one single male-dominated profession.
Oh ... btw, Brennan is in the article tunip linked to saying heterosexual married women are her biggest supporters because they get it about the dick thing. I don't get the impression she has an issue with dick-endowed persons who're pro radfem, or she'd have a problem with said hetero married types too.
I think you have a really odd definition of hate speech Marfisa, and I'm not sure I'm seeing the same Twitter feed as you.
If statements that begin 'Queer theory is x' constitute hate speech, how are we meant to discuss anything ever?
I also don't get how on earth objecting to queer theory could possibly be hate speech.
I'm also comparing 'Jews are x' with Cathy Brennan's tweets and not seeing an awful lot of similarity
Because the patriarchy loves queer theory and questioning it is hate speech, I reckon.
Actually that is probably hate speech since I used a subject-verb-object sentence structure.
Or could it possibly be that what counts as hate speech has more to do with who says it than what the content is....
Well, this is true.
I am really glad I went to this conference because it's given me some theoretical framework to use in my proper work against queer theory.
I don't know if people know what is annoying about it?
It's not annoying per se, it's just a hugely over-exposed theory, and it's become hard to disagree with it. And of course, when theory becomes ideology and when you're dissuaded from disagreeing with it, it's an issue.
Personally, I find queer theory applied to my subject quite annoying because 90% of the time, I feel it's suggesting certain people had agency when they were in fact being treated in a horrible way. It's become a way of celebrating 'transgression' and 'difference' without acknowledging the huge punishments societies have meted out to those who're different. It's like someone relentlessly positive telling you how wonderful it is that someone is speaking out against FGM, but refusing to acknowledge that the fact FGM exists at all is pretty shit.
I don't see the issue with criticizing a theory at all.
Actually, it's interesting.
What Marfisa describes is a prohibition on class-based analysis of any kind. This is why queer theory, though it claims to be radical, is in effect deeply conservative: without class-based analysis and action there can be no challenge to the status quo. Which is why the right loves it.
No political challenge to the status quo, that should be.
To be entirely fair, I know people who use queer theory and acknowledge it is not radical. That is why it lends itself to sympathetic analyses of historical power structures.
I struggle with queer theory. Probably because it seems largely theoretical and I can't really see the real world application of it.
And I appreciate that I'm probably coming from a blinkered straight white woman stance on that.
I think discrimination against women is wrong and discrimination against transpeople is wrong, as is any form of discrimination against anyone. I just can't help thinking that the theories are all well and good but detract from the RL problems and solutions.
So I think that woman = biological woman but that doesn't preclude me from rejecting any form of discrimination of transwomen in real life. It just seems to me that the argument is all about feminists must agree that woman is redefined instead of concentrating on what the actual problems are that transwomen face and dealing with that as a specific issue in its own right. Surely the fact that Kim feels possibly discriminated against in real life applying for jobs is more important to address than whether disagreeing with theory is hate speech.
I'd like to be able to discuss theory without being attacked or accused of being an extremist particularly when it's one that I'm floundering with or trying to get to grips with. It's why I'm grateful that the FWR boards exist and that so many posters generously impart their knowledge and views. But I still think the theory is an aside to practical action.
Mmm. My perspective is that queer theory is particularly bad on racial issues. But of course, I am also a blinkered white woman, so perhaps I am wrong.
I totally agree that the issue of kim feeling - and I would say, btw, we shouldn't say feeling, we need to say being, because the evidence is there - discriminated against is more important.
We obviously agree on so much. We need to be able to do that.
I don't know, maybe the answer is we ignore the lunatic fringe and just get together?
(I have to admit, to be fair, that it's not exactly hard for me to sacrifice queer theory as 'less important' here! I can't stand it.)
what is queer theory...?
in a nutshell
Oh, I'm going to be terrible at summing it up.
Basically, it's heavily influenced by Judith Butler (and unsubtle readings of Butler), as well as some others. Obviously the term itself originally had a lot to do with reclaiming 'queer', though it's now moved away from that.
As I understand it, the postive aspects are that gender and sex and sexuality are all things we can choose to act out in different ways. It's a theory that recognises and celebrates the richness of different experiences - so it's saying, there are lots of different ways to act, and they're all valid, and everything in the garden is lovely.
As I understand it, queer theory applied to stuff I know about tends to result in people assuming all transgressive behaviour is positive. You see, the idea is you're celebrating transgression as a powerful activity that challenges people's perceptions. Obviously that's good in itself, but it can IMO lead to people ignoring the realities of how transgressors are punished.
Lierre Keith's speech included lots of points that touched on this, but the one I understood best was her talking about the permeability of female bodies and the lack of boundaries female bodies have, in a patriarchial society. Basically, as we know, the patriarchy would love to say that all female bodies are permeable, in that they could all be penetrated and all women are interchangeable (sorry, I know this is really basic). But queer theory would try to say, maybe this permeability is a source of power ... maybe if we all transgress, we're changing society by acting against its norms.
The problem being, of course, that this doesn't necessarily work.
Anyway, I digress. As I understand it, the basic tenet of queer theory is that everything is to do with how you behave or identify yourself. There aren't absolutes, there are only spectums. In that sense it's postmodern. However, IMO applications of queer theory end up reinforcing the same limiting binaries as ever.
I am about to stop wittering on - honest - but the other issue I have with queer theory is that the category of 'queer' is expanded beyond what makes sense. I've had mates tell me I am a queer theorist because I am not a right-wing heterosexual defender of marriage. IMO if we label most everyone as 'queer', it erases lesbians and gay men.
Sorry, that is a truly terrible explanation. I know what I don't go for queer theory but I'm bad at explanining it.
Maybe it helps to say that I think lesbians, in particular, feel queer theory really doesn't speak for them. It is rather like those bits of feminism that talk about 'empowering' people a lot - it doesn't provide much of a framework for people who're in less of a positive situation.
It was way better than I could do!
My problem, in a very small nutshell (a pine nut or something) is that the emphasis on the agency of those performing gender has little of use to say about the people who suffer the most from the gender hierarchy. What price identifying as a woman for the missing baby girls in China?
We should all transgress so gender loses power as a construct?
I think that's sort of the idea. It's not meant to be, but that's how it comes across.
The issue being that, while it's lovely to claim that fluid gender identities free all of us, if you end up claiming 'well, we are all queer', you end up reducing something meaningful to nothing.
Here's the thing.
The more powerful you are within the patriarchy, the more freedom you have to inscribe your own gender.
The people who have the most freedom are the rich older white men with successful careers, who can not only afford the medical treatment to transition, they can hang onto their previous careers and social status and are in a better position to force those around them to accept their definition of gender. It's a very nice theoretical framework for them. If you are poor or less powerful you don't get the same options.
I would like to know more about the experiences of transmen and the extent to which the gender identity they claim is recognised by other men. There has been all this scrutiny of the women surrounding transwomen, who are shamed as bigots for refusing to accept the identity of transwomen as female. But do men even in our culture accept transmen wholeheartedly? I think we know whether it is possible for a woman to claim male identity in the very woman-hating cultures.
Well, you know, I'm not exactly neutral here, hully, it may be someone who loves it could convince you it's the dog's non-gender-specific performatively-defined lumps.
tunip - yep. Me too.
I imagine we would see a gap between what the key texts of queer theory actually say, and how it is used by the people it has trickled down to.
Someone who had read more than me would probably read my post and say 'But- but- that's not what it says, it never claims to do that anyway.' And I would think, sure, but people who throw around the ideas on their blogs about why radical feminism is hate speech make out it does.
True, and I think it's an important point.
That said, I still don't believe the theory is defensible.
It's just so important, that we are allowed to analyse and organise politically according to the categories that make sense to us.
I wouldn't go to the stake over the definition of woman. I would think 'ok, if everybody else has decided it makes more sense to divide people up by what they identify as rather than what they've been divided into based on genitals, society can redefine woman if it wants. Words change.' But if I believe I have been treated differently based on my female biology, refusing me the right to name a category of people who share that biology with me, and to meet and organise with those people, would be not only a major headfuck, but an oppression I would have to resist with all my strength.
Hello! I was also at Radfem2013. I didn't get to the parenting workshop, partly because I'm peripherally involved in the Feminist Party UK project, so had to concentrate on that.
It would be great if there were an event or training course about feminist parenting, though. I have 2 small daughters & need to make sure I don't screw this up - including by droning on about the patriarchy until they turn anti-feminist!
This is interesting (though it's just from wikipedia) ...
A significant yet sometimes overlooked part of Butler's argument concerns the role of sex in the construction of "natural" or coherent gender and sexuality. Butler explicitly challenges biological accounts of binary sex, reconceiving the sexed body as itself culturally constructed by regulative discourse. The supposed obviousness of sex as a natural biological fact attests to how deeply its production in discourse is concealed. The sexed body, once established as a natural and unquestioned fact, is the alibi for constructions of gender and sexuality, unavoidably more cultural in their appearance, which can purport to be the just-as-natural expressions or consequences of a more fundamental sex. On Butler's account, it is on the basis of the construction of natural binary sex that binary gender and heterosexuality are likewise constructed as natural. In this way, Butler claims that without a critique of sex as produced by discourse, the sex/gender distinction as a feminist strategy for contesting constructions of binary asymmetric gender and compulsory heterosexuality will be ineffective.
Thus, by showing both terms gender and sex as socially and culturally constructed, Butler offers a critique of both terms, even as they have been used by feminists. Butler argued that feminism made a mistake in trying to make women a discrete, ahistorical group with common characteristics. Butler said this approach reinforces the binary view of gender relations because it allows for two distinct categories: men and women. Butler believes that feminists should not try to define women and she also believes that feminists should focus on providing an account of how power functions and shapes our understandings of womanhood not only in the society at large but also within the feminist movement. Finally, Butler aims to break the supposed links between sex and gender so that gender and desire can be flexible, free floating and not caused by other stable factors. The idea of identity as free and flexible and gender as a performance, not an essence, is one of the foundations of Queer Theory.
So, if I've understood correctly, Butler sees both sex and gender as socially constructed whereas radical feminists see sex as biological but gender as socially constructed.
I understand how sex has been used as an alibi to construct gender. What I don't understand is how sex itself can be socially constructed
Thanks all for a really interesting and civilised discussion. I'm off to bed but will check back tomorrow evening.
Her argument is based on the existence of intersex conditions. We are all assigned a sex at birth, rather than the sex being a completely natural artefact unmediated by culture. Usually that assignation is uncontroversial, but it is still culturally created.
I am not really convinced. It may be culturally created, but that doesn't make it completely contingent - it still has to match up with something in the objective world, because you need one of each sort to make a baby and you can change the name of either if you want but you will still be left with two classes of people both of which are necessary for reproduction.
I am following the 'droning on about the patriarchy' method of childrearing, but I took dd to Million Women Rise last year and she had such a great time that she totally buys into feminism. That and the Horrible Histories Suffragette song.
It is working so far but my oldest is only 8. When she gets to 14 she may have a different view.
I once overheard my son saying to his sister, 'I want to smash the patriarchy! Do you want to smash the patriarchy with me?'
Investigations, however, proved that he had no idea what the patriarchy was, he had just overheard me using the phrase and thought it would be fun to smash something.
tunip I agree with you that sex is not contingent. I believe he oppression of women is rooted at least partially in our biology - our capacity or potential (real or perceived) to be raped and to bear children. I also believe our experience of girlhood with this biology is a very important part of womanhood and I don't like the queer approach that says there is no shared experience of girlhood.
It seems to me that Cathy Brennan has tried to express that she supports gender non-conformity and is a butch dyke but this seems not to be listened to by those who attack her. I really don't understand why queer activists call RFs biological determinists. It seems the opposite to me. I guess it boils down to what Butler says about sex being a social construct but I just can't accept that.
Ah Tunip that is fantastic! )
Maybe i'll take my eldest to MWR next year then. She's only 7, but she has absorbed my "if only one sex is supposed to do something, there's probably something dodgy going on" rhetoric to some extent.
( BTW, having read through the entire thread in one go - I expected Cathy Brennan to be a hateful bullying loudmouthed git, but she totally wasn't. I was amazed. She's funny and humble and makes excellent points very articulately. I myself couldn't say what she does on Twitter but I can see why she does, and why it's needed. I've had to block several people in the last few days just because I stated publicly that I was at Radfem2013. Just being called 'radscum' is about the best we can expect. )
I've read her blog. It does seem most of her posts are talking about trans people and her lesbian identity.
There doesn't seem to be much posts on anything else that I thought were important to feminism and radical feminism apart from these two isses.
Has she got anything else to add to Radical feminism and feminist issues apart from her focus on gender identity and her lesbian identity? (which I acknowledge she thinks are important)
She's a lawyer and her focus has been campaigning for better equality legislation, originally for gays and lesbians, then through that she got involved in housing and employment equality legislation for transpeople which is what brought her face to face with the whole issue.
I don't think she sets herself up as a thinker or an originator of ideas, she just sees herself as a loudmouth who is in a position to say things that other people can't! I think apart from that, her contribution to the movement is to do with her legal knowledge.
Flora, it makes me laugh how both sides call the other biological determinists. 'You're a biological determinist!' 'No you are!'
I think tbh there has been enough diversity of thought in both movements that you can probably point to writings from either side that can be read that way. I've seen radfems saying men will always be violent because of their testosterone (more 30 years ago than now though), and I've seen transwomen believing that they are biologically programmed to like girly things while I know others whose view of most aspects of gender is virtually indistinguishable from ours and who are hugely uncomfortable with being forced into stereotypical roles in order to access medical treatment for physical dysphoria.
Renarde, that was my reaction to Cathy exactly. Also to Lierre Keith, though I missed the beginning of her talk.
I realised that my expectations had been shaped more than I knew by the 'these women are bigots and must be no-platformed!' stuff surrounding both of them. I hadn't read of any of Lierre's writing and was half expecting her to slip in a call for us to castrate all men or something, because I thought there must be something behind the level of protest she was getting.
As for Cathy, I thought she'd have an underlying hostility to trans and there would be invective and sneering comments about men in dresses. And that was totally not the case.
I now know that the assumption that if people are being protested, there must be something for them to be protested about, is completely wrong. In a detached historian sort of way I'm finding this extremely fascinating, as is the way the myths about radfems are getting repeated on Twitter (we think sex workers are subhuman and plan to out them against their will? What the fuck?!)
Like I said earlier, I'm not that phased by the rape threats from nutters, but the readiness of feminists to believe all these things without making the slightest attempt to check they're true is quite shocking.
kim147, I was wondering about that too. So many of Brennan's posts are devoted to attacking transpeople, queers, etc that it's difficult to see what else exactly she is contributing to the feminist movement.
tunip, I haven't read any of the myths going around about Brennan; I only read her own words on her own webpages, and that was enough to turn me right off. I admit that the definition I gave of hate speech above was hastily made up and a bit clumsy - and anyway, there are lots of different types of hate speech, not just one type.
But here are examples of some of Brennan's recent tweets:
The GLBT community demands lesbians adopt a woman-hating ideology. We will not comply.
[Implies that there is only one GLBT community and that everyone in it believes the same thing - untrue. Uses loaded words like 'demands' and 'woman-hating' instead of making any real argument.]
The T in LGBT was an odd addition, but the T are now dictating to everyone that the L should no longer be welcome. Fuck that
[Again, implies that LGBT people are homogeneous and that all transpeople share the same beliefs - untrue. Uses loaded words like 'dictating' and hyperbole like 'everyone'.]
The fascism of the trans community should scare all gay ppl
[The trans community is homogeneous. The trans community is scary and anti-gay.]
Queers silence and intimidate women just like men.
[All queers are the same. They all 'silence' and 'intimidate'.]
The language of queer culture is the language of male violence and intimidation.
[Queer culture is homogeneous and has only one 'language'. That language is violent and intimidating.]
Yes it's a shame transwomen lack respect for women.
Trans activism consists of thinking of new ways to insult women. Kind of like men's rights activism. There's a reason for that.
I could carry on with more examples but I won't. See what I mean? Inflammatory generalisations about entire groups of people. Repeated characterisations of transwomen and 'queers' as violent and hostile. It's just mud-slinging.
And I'm going to stop being coy here and come right out and say it: I think it's appalling that RadFem excludes transwomen from its conferences. That argument that someone made above, about how transwomen would be welcome if they were radical feminists, but if they were radical feminists they wouldn't want to go to a RadFem conference anyway, because they would understand the importance of women having a woman-only space? That is a clever argument, but it sounds like exclusion to me.
Transwomen are already a vulnerable group, who face social discrimination and have a high suicide rate, as kim147 has pointed out), etc. They are living as women, but despite the fact that "women born with vaginas" have all sorts of different life experiences based on race, ethnicity, class, family background and their own extremely diverse bodies, transwomen just aren't 'woman' enough to count. So the RadFem organisers have to specifically exclude them from their conferences, because trans identity is so threatening to feminism. I'm not impressed and I'm not convinced.
If Brennan and her friends want to hold a conference without transwomen, that's their right. But do I support the right of transwomen and their supporters to engage in non-violent protest at such a conference (emphasis on 'non-violent')? Absolutely. Do I support their right to write letters to the venue where the conference is held, urging that space not be given to such a discriminatory event? Hell yes.
Because if one of my DS grows up and decides he wants to transition, I want him/her to live in a friendlier, more tolerant world than the one kim147 has to cope with, though she copes with it courageously and graciously. It's as simple as that really.
In the meantime I'm happy to meet any radfem and chat about sex/gender over or . Because I don't think they're violent monsters. I just think that if they share Brennan's views about scary intimidating anti-gay transpeople and queers, they're wrong.
I've had the debate on here before about Rad Fem and exclusion so I'm not going to go there.
I'm just a bit that this thread has gone the way of trans again. Not surprised but I'm sure there were other things mentioned at the conference that were also important.
I'm not trying to stop conversation but it would be interesting to know what was discussed at the conference.
Right, OK, sorry to have appropriated you as an example, kim; it was presumptuous on my part. However I haven't had the debate on here before and I am still at the and stage to learn that there are feminists who actually think and speak like Brennan.
Believe me , this has been discussed before
I think we got to 1000 posts.
So basically Marfisa, Brennan describes what is happening and what she has first-hand experience of, and because you don't like it (because people representing the queer community that you identify with or support are behaving badly) you object to her talking about it and you buttress your objections by claiming a degree of generalisation that is not there and forbidding any discussion of any community as a whole.
If the extremists within a community make it difficult for the moderates within that community to speak out, as we agreed is happening within the transactivist community, and the words that are come out of that community as a result are limited to the extreme, it is reasonable to describe the voice of that community as extreme, no?
You just seem so determined not to see what is happening that you are blaming the people who speak up about it rather than the people who are doing it.
How do you think it feels as a lesbian to be told you can't call yourself a lesbian because you aren't sexually attracted to people with penises? I'm straight but I can see why so many lesbians are not feeling welcome within LGBT any more.
and just a little grammatical point.
'Queers do x' does not mean 'All queers are the same. They do x' any more than 'Children throw food' when pointing to the baked beans on the floor means 'All children throw food.'
In one tweet Brennan says 'Men rape.' She follows that up with 'Women sexually assault.'
She's not saying all men rape or all women sexually assault, she's making a distinction. Saying queers silence women as men do is not a claim about every single queer, it is a comment on something that is happening to women.
Unless you want to wilfully misread, which I guess you do.
BTW do you support transactivists shouting down Sheila Jeffries and Lierre Keith when they attempt to talk about other elements of their activism, campaigning against the abuse of women in the prostitution industry, or the history of lesbianism, or green politics and feminism? Are we allowed to listen to that?
We are not talking about people writing a few letters. The protests carried out by transactivists and with the apparent support of the mainstream transactivist movement have been far more disruptive than that.
Kim, the stuff on the prostitution industry was really powerful. Rachel Moran, whose book I linked to above, talked about her own experiences in prostitution and why she now campaigns for abolition.
Sheila Jeffries followed that up with some results of her research into prostitution. The most disturbing thing was the state approved health and safety codes for prostitutes.
The take-away point for me was the importance of survivor leadership in abolitionism.
Another strong strand was the lesbian history stuff on the second day. As well as Sheila's talk (have to get the most out of her while she's here since it's so rare she's allowed to speak about anything these days thanks to the lovely extreme transactivists!) which asked why women don't come to lesbianism through feminism these days as they did in the second wave, they showed the film 'Lesbiana' about lesbian separatism. Lesbians running away to build communities without men, building their own houses and learning to be sound engineers so they could have women-only music festivals There were lots of tears among the elderly lesbians in the room!
It was kind of inspirational to hear how they had imagined a world for themselves free from patriarchy, but also rather sad thinking how much more limited our aspirations are now.
It was really good hearing about the second wave from the actual second wavers. Liberal feminism tends to be very heavily skewed towards younger women, and it was fabulous seeing a more age-diverse group of feminists.
There was a very interesting talk about the effect of white culture on indigenous women in North America, by a First Nations woman.
A fantastic talk by Femi Otitoju about how and why to listen feminists from cultures across the world.
Lots of workshops. I went to one on using the internet and learnt a few interesting things about internet security - quite useful for radfems as so many (and I don't just mean the outspoken Cathy Brennans) have been hacked and stalked. Though actually for me the best part of that was hearing a woman who used to run a lesbian switchboard talk about how they did things before the internet, driving around putting stickers in motorway service stations.
There was one on feminist parenting but it's such a big topic and tbh it is probably regularly discussed in a more developed way on here than is possible in an hour.
I'm meant to be working today (yeah, that's really going to keep me off MN .... ). But I will say, marfisa, it's very difficult to take seriously what you say when the word 'cis' is used all the time. Isn't it?
btw Marfisa, what about lying in the letters to protest our meetings? Is that ok?
Because that is what happens. The London Irish Centre were told we advocate violence against men, and that us meeting without men would be illegal under the Equalities Act, which it wasn't.
Cross posted ... yes, Rachel Moran was excellent. So powerful. I also loved Femi's talk and the way that fitted in with what several other speakers were saying. There was a really harrowing talk about the situation of first nations people in Canada - the statistics on rape and violence were really upsetting. And there was also a lot of discussion about building feminist communities across different countries.
I didn't at all feel as if Brennan had only one thing to say (though I'd be fine with it if she did) - she touched on other issues through her speech and it was obvious she has a lot of knowledge about patterns of violence at her fingertips, she just didn't happen to be speaking primarily about it.
Kim, believe me, I would rather talk about the other stuff, not trans again, but it's hard when someone accuses your group of hate speech
The phrase 'hate speech' has a similar vibe to 'treason' and 'heresy' in the 16th century, or 'witchcraft' in 17th century New England, in that if you get tarred with that brush people will shun you without actually bothering to engage with the reality behind it, so it does have to be addressed.
I think it is always difficult to counter accusations that you're not being tolerant, because we all want to be tolerant and accommodating.
I find it hard, though. Listening to the stats in that speech about first nations women was really upsetting. Other speakers also had horrific stats and examples - Julia Long's speech on male violence for example. I wish I could pretend violence against women doesn't happen, but it does. Women are an attacked group. I find it hard to understand how this can simply be ignored, so much.
I was thinking about the comment someone made earlier in the thread, about how sexual attraction must be partly socially constructed, so it's hard to have total sympathy with lesbians who say they will never be attracted to transwomen. I cannot imagine any other context in which we'd be saying to lesbians 'well, just be a bit less lesbian, dear. Just try to be attracted to someone else, someone more socially acceptable. Maybe a man? They're nice.' We just wouldn't. We'd feel like bigots.
So how come we don't feel like bigots saying this about lesbians and transwomen?
I'd forgotten Julia Long's speech about male violence!
The big point she made was about the importance of being able to name it and the ways women are prevented from doing that, for instance by renaming it 'gender-based violence' and accusing women of (guess what?) hate speech for actually naming the agent.
All of which is rather apposite in the light of Marfisa's posts.
(Cos that's the thing - it's often well-meaning feminists who think they're all for tolerance and niceness who do the silencing which allows the abusive behaviour to continue unchecked.)
Yeah, it was a pity she had to cut her speech short.
But yes, the thing about naming is really important. There's a post about it here: medusagaze.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/malespeak-with-radical-feminist.html
Thank you for that post. The absent referent and other linguistic devices are all right there under our noses, aren't they! I had never thought about it like that, despite being embroiled in a thesis about language and power (albeit in a different context). These ideas will be useful to me for my thesis as well, so thanks again for that.
That's so funny ... I am partly struggling to be coherent about these talks because I kept getting sidetracked from feminism in 2013 to 'hmm, that so changes what I want to say about Middle English romances ....'. I love it when theories really come together in your mind like that. Your thesis sounds really interesting, btw.
Women are socialised to be tolerant and kind.
And to throw other women under the bus, if there are men to be placated.
Queer theory just enables them to do it while believing it is a feminist thing to do.
Has anyone linked the Who owns gender? article from Trouble and Strife yet?
Malenky / LRD your thesis sounds interesting too. Mostly, mine could be titled "a struggle to be coherent"
(That article is great, tunip.)
...I've now got a subtitle in my 'discussion' chapter: Medusa's Gaze
Wow, there are a lot of feminist medievalists on here! That is good to see.
outs self as medievalist
I know loads of queer/post-structuralist types in RL and on the internet, and I have never met one person who has said the kinds of things that Brennan says have been said to her. I certainly would never presume to tell lesbians who they should or shouldn't sleep with. I don't know anyone who would.
I don't doubt that Brennan has received the kind of verbal abuse she describes, but she is taking the extreme loony fringe as representative of entire communities. It's just not true. They're not representative.
That's why I feel frustrated. If someone said to you that the radfem community was violent and intimidating, and you had tons of radfem friends and acquaintances, none of whom were violent or intimidating, wouldn't that piss you off a little? It doesn't rule out the possibility of crazy violent people identifying themselves as radfem, but you would say, nope, that's not representative of my feminist community.
I subscribe to a number of the different ideologies that Brennan identifies as violent and fascistic. And I wholeheartedly reject her labelling of these ideologies as doctrines of hate.
I have also been very careful not to accuse radfems in general as propagating hate speech. I singled out Brennan because I read her own words.
Big generalisations and stereotypes are always easier and more alluring than complexity and nuance though.
I don't think she is taking the extreme fringe as representative, I think she's just fed up. If she were taking them as representative, why would she also have talked about helping get laws passed for trans friends of hers?
I do feel frustrated for precisely the reason you mention. That's the point. You seem to feel this is all one-sided. It isn't.
Can you honestly not see how you're generalizing and stereotyping here? You're ignoring all the nuances in order to make out it's all very black and white.
I don't know if you meant me, but I am not a medievalist
outs self as social scientist
Marfisa, thank you for remaining polite and pleasant when I am being snarky and cross. I appreciate it very much.
I really want to respond fully but mustn't waste any more time when I should be working, so 2 quick points:
1. I think you're overstating the extent to which it's only a lunatic fringe of transactivism that says some of these things. It's not the mainstream of transwomen - the ones I know just want to get on with their lives - but it is often mainstream transactivists and their feminist allies.
2. No need for the hypothetical 'If someone said radfems are violent....' as if it's a hypothetical thing that only happens in Hypothetical Land. It happens all the time and we've said so on here.
Comparing that with Brennan talking about things that have actually happened to her (particularly when you are ascribing generalisation that is not in her words) is a false equivalence.
eg Cotton Ceiling workshop was at big trans conference, talked about approvingly by at least one well-known transactivist in mainstream feminist publication.
I have to work too so can't post in much detail but just wanted to add a voice of support to marfisa.
I went to RadFem 2012 last year and enjoyed it very much. I understand the radfem critique of trans issues. I have no problem with Sheila Jeffreys (well - I don't agree with her on everything but her critique of femininity is brilliant and I admire her for her courage in continuing to speak despite horrible threats and the genuine possibility of violent attack).
Nevertheless, I've stopped following Cathy Brennan on Twitter because I found her comments so loathsome. Yes of course MRAs and transactivists are much more loathsome, but I just don't understand what she achieves by making unpleasant, aggressive generalisations in that way. It's great that she's lovely in person but unfortunately more people encounter her online persona than will ever see her speak.
Why be vile? What's the point? Despite reading Tunip et al's posts above I genuinely do not understand.
My impression is, because no-one is listening otherwise.
Yes, I wouldn't do it - but I don't see the point of saying 'well, dear me, I mustn't be aggressive, I must be balanced' when there is very little balance to this issue.
I don't see many people saying, re. issues such as FGM, 'well, we must be balanced, it's really very wrong to call FGM an abusive and appalling practice, we should be more understanding'. It's not like none of us can possibly imagine the complexities of that issue, and the way some women will feel forced to carry out FGM on their daughters, or the way some daughters will ask for it ... but we still manage to accept that the absolute statement 'FGM is abusive and wrong' needs to be made.
I kind of find it ironic how her views on trans people and some of the stuff she comes out with are just like some of the stuff that was being said about gay people 20 - 30 years ago.
And which is being said now about gay people by some members of religious groups.
I wonder what her views on gay marriage are and what she thinks of the people who are religious and think marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
FGM is a different sort of issue, though. I have no problem with Brennan saying, 'Making violent threats against radical feminists is abusive and wrong.'
I really don't think they are, kim.
As far as I can see, she's saying that possibly if lesbians aren't attracted to transwomen, they should not be told it's transphobic. That sounds like precisely the opposite of what people were saying about lesbians 30 years ago, which was, if lesbians aren't attracted to men, they're deviant and should just try a bit harder to like men.
I don't get what it has to do with gay marriage. The religious idiots who make a fuss about gay marriage are of the belief that someone else's relationship can cheapen their own, which is selfish bollocks. She's not saying 'OMG, I don't want transwomen ever to be in relationships as it'd spoil my relationship with my girlfriend', is she?
I'm prepared to believe FGM is a different sort of issue, but I'm interested in why you say so?
You are saying (if I understand you rightly), that whereas it's ok to label the perpetrators of one kind of violence against women, it's not ok to label the perpetrators of another kind of violence against women.
Yet we surely know there will be women and men who carry out FGM not because they are consciously and deliberately being abusive woman-haters, but because they are trapped in a vile and misogynistic culture. We still label them, and I think we're right to do so.
I agree about lesbians who don't need to be lectured to about who and who not they are attracted to.
My point is that as a gay person, she has had a lot of struggle to be accepted in a world that until very recently was anti gay and did not even believe homosexuality existed. There was no medical evidence for it - people just felt gay but they were dismissed and jailed for it.
I think there are still people out there who think homosexuality is a sin, goes against the natural order and think there is no medical or biological cause for it.
The same goes for gay weddings. There are many people who are completely opposed to gay weddings. They think gay people have no right to get married as it is between a man and a woman. That's their view and they are entitled to it - even though I think it's wrong.
All I'm saying is that it's kind of ironic the hatred she has for trans people (maybe a small minority of trans activists but that's not how it comes across to me from what I read) and the hatred many people had (and some still have) for homosexuals.
Well, it depends what you mean by labelling the perpetrators. I have no problem with:
'FGM is vile and abusive' or
'Transactivists who make violent threats are vile and abusive' or indeed
'Perpetrators of FGM are vile and abusive' (though for the reasons you give this is not necessarily a useful thing to say).
I do have a problem with:
'Somalis are vile and abusive' (because many Somalis carry out FGM, but not all) and
'Transactivists are vile and abusive' (because many transactivists make violent threats, but not all).
It's only 'ironic' if you believe you've already proved the parallel is valid. Saying it's ironic is pretty much saying 'oh well, I'm so sure I'm right I don't even need to argue the case', isn't it?
Precisely the same argument could be applied to paedophilia - oh, look, how we struggle to be accepted and people say there's no medical basis for how we feel. Aren't they mean?
I don't think those sorts of parallels add anything to the debate. Being lesbian isn't fundamentally about erasing someone else's identity or abusing someone not old enough to consent. Being trans isn't fundamentally about either of those things, but an awful lot of transactivism is edging extremely close to the first one, and certainly the 'cotton ceiling' is well over that line.
mooncup - fair enough, I take your point.
'My point is that as a gay person, she has had a lot of struggle to be accepted in a world that until very recently was anti gay and did not even believe homosexuality existed.'
But many lesbians feel like being told their sexuality doesn't exist is precisely what is happening to them now.
If you've always believed attraction to the female anatomy meant you were a lesbian, and then you get told you're transphobic for thinking that, because women can have male bodies and lesbians can be attracted to penises, it's understandable that you might feel like someone is trying to erase your identity. Surely that's not too hard to imagine?
And if the largely male-dominated LGBT movement is telling you this too, you may be a little bit about it all.
(Obviously this is not my struggle, because I'm straight, and obviously there are lesbians out there who are cool about it, but I've heard a lot about this from lesbians who are very upset that they are being redefined and they don't have any say in the matter.)
YY, I agree, that is how I understood what was being said too, tunip.
People were also expressing a lot of concern that young lesbians were being given the message that it was more acceptable to come out as transgender, than it was to come out as being lesbian.
I feel my words are being misinterpreted. I don't know anyone personally who is telling lesbians they should be transgender instead or should be attracted to transwomen. I suppose it's those trans activists again.
I was just relating the struggle the gay community had to be recognised and accepted last century and all the hate they were / are exposed to to the hate and struggle the trans community face.
I don't think anyone thought you did, kim?
I'm saying, the reason I don't feel the parallel adds anything useful to this discussion is 1) because you could draw similar spurious parallels to the rhetoric and situation of groups with which neither lesbians nor transgender people would wish to be associated, and 2) because what lesbians are being pressured to do is precisely the same as what they have always been pressured to do - give in to another group telling them they must change their identity and sexuality.
It's not surprising if some lesbians don't feel comfortable with that, even though the groups putting pressure on them are not the same as they were in the 70s.
I would say, too, it's not like it's suddenly become really easy to come out as a lesbian, is it? The prejudice against homosexuals (and I would say perhaps particularly against lesbians) didn't disappear in the 70s. I am 28, I wasn't alive in the 70s, and I still had parents who told me to keep quiet about being attracted to women. I am lucky, because I ended up in a nice conventional heterosexual marriage, but I met a lot of women at this conference who were talking about the level of shit they face because people feel they don't look or sound or behave the way women should.
I think a lot of this is a product of social media on the Internet rather than something particular to either feminism or trans rights. It exists across all forms of social justice on many social media sites (MN is very calm in comparison). There just seems to be very high levels of aggression and hounding people across multiple platforms.
This puts a lot of people off joining any kind of activism, and must be very difficult for both trans women and lesbians in isolated locations who are trying to connect with people online.
Perhaps it is particularly associated with queer activists (who frequently are not lesbian, gay or trans women) because it is so much based on language, definitions and 'discourse analysis' that it is possible to use queer theory to deem almost anything anyone says as prejudiced, dehumanising etc. It is hard to know what kinds of social identities are going to stick and influence society and which ones come and go. I tend to think in twenty years there will still be lesbians, gay men, feminists and trans women (not all mutually exclusive categories), but I'm not convinced that 'queer' which seems to now be mostly white, young, university educated straight people talking about their sexual interests and clothing choices is going to be seen as a marginalised identity group or political movement. But I change my mind on it a lot. Time will tell.
I think that's true, freya.
Especially what you say about 'white, young university educated straight people'. That seems to be about people so passionately wanting to be part of an oppressed group, they sort of imagine themselves into it, but I think that's always happened. It's like very middle-class teenagers getting very into Marxist theory and frantically trying to redefine themselves as working class.
I think you are spot on there Freya.
As I said upthread, you post anything that tries to see something from another point of view on trans forums / FB pages and you get flamed. It's really hard because you want them for support but then you can get really isolated and bullied if you post something they don't agree with.
I was trying to do that last year with the Rad Fem 2012 debate and got so much criticism and flaming. So you learn to shut up.
Yeah. That's a real problem.
I feel like, if it were more ok to just talk about this stuff without being shut up, we would probably end up sorting it out. Because I do keep noticing how difficult it is to get a perspective on both sides.
I'm feeling very disillusioned with it at the moment. The kind of experiences Kim is describing I've also heard from black people being scared about interacting with white anti-racist campaigners. I know that there are always conflicts and disagreements in political activism but it seems to have escalated horribly on social media. Maybe we will all learn to collectively use it better over time and learn from mistakes.
There are always going to be groups of people that you can agree with on one issue and not another, and it should be possible to collaborate on the things we agree on. That seems less and less common now online and disagreements are made too personal and about attacking individuals.
<head in hands>
But why is it automatic that transpeople are equivalent to the oppressed group in that scenario?
I get that transpeople face oppression and discrimination, I really do. But not-so-subtle attempts to make out that any woman who doesn't totally agree with transactivism is equivalent is part of the privileged group is really pissing me off.
Women face huge amounts of gendered violence and discrimination. It is patently obvious that lesbians come in for a really nasty combination of these things with homophobia.
I can see that many women and many lesbians don't have an issue with saying 'personally, I feel I have more privilege than a transwoman'. But why is it automatic that everyone must feel this way, that everyone has to look at their life and say 'yeah, I thought I was facing a lot of discrimination and oppression, but clearly I was wrong. Bad me.'
I think the Internet has a lot to answer for. It is incredibly empowering to communicate with people who you have something in common with. God knows it's helped me. MN has also helped me learn a lot about feminism and other people's views on pretty much everything. I've learnt a lot about people's views on trans issues which I don't think I'd have been aware of if the Internet did not exist.
But it's so easy to disagree and to say things that are really hurtful and full of hate and anger. Rad Fems know that, women who dare to speak out know that - there's people out there who just want to make things personal and attack people in a way I don't think they'd do in real life.
I'm on another forum and it's incredible some of the stuff that's posted on there and the insults people make that they would probably not do if they were in a pub together.
Then again - some activists are the same in RL as they are online. Just very committed to a cause and incapable of listening to the other side.
Well - I have no problem with saying I'm privileged in that I'm not disabled, and similarly I feel privileged in that I'm not trans. I don't think that detracts from the potential discrimination I face as a woman.
Privilege is a group issue, isn't it - of course there will be trans people who have amazing lives and are fortunate and successful in lots of ways, just as there are rich and successful disabled people. It's just a way of saying that, on average, disabled/trans/ethnic minority/female people have it harder, no?
I did just acknowledge that lots of women don't have an issue saying they're privileged, mooncup. It is right there in my post.
Privilege is indeed a group issue. This is why I don't believe cis privilege exists in any meaningful way.
How does a transwoman have it harder than a lesbian? Especially if - as was pointed out at this conference - people frequently cannot even tell the difference in day-to-day life?
How does a transwoman have less privilege that someone like Dani Tauni, who explained she was pressured into identifying as trans because it was seen as more acceptable?
I do not follow this at all.
I think a lesbian probably has it easier getting a job.
Is that a privilege or just discrimination?
And probably doesn't get her "before" picture along with a previous name published in the media when they transition just because they have a public job?
Or have the press hounding them.
Do you think so, kim? I've never seen anyone ever hound a gay teacher out of a job. Or suggest gay people shouldn't be allowed to work in organizations with young children. Or have the press hounding them.
Except, obviously, I have. And so I imagine have you.
But it's not a competition, is it? Lesbians suffer from straight privilege, trans people suffer from non-trans privilege. I daresay in some situations (like the exampled you mention)straight privilege may be more problematic than non-trans privilege, and in some situations it's the other way round.
Am on bus so possibly not at most coherent!
But it's not a competition, is it? Lesbians suffer from straight privilege, trans people suffer from non-trans privilege. I daresay in some situations (like the exampled you mention)straight privilege may be more problematic than non-trans privilege, and in some situations it's the other way round.
Am on bus so possibly not at most coherent!
But it's not a competition, is it? Lesbians suffer from straight privilege, trans people suffer from non-trans privilege. I daresay in some situations (like the exampled you mention)straight privilege may be more problematic than non-trans privilege, and in some situations it's the other way round.
Am on bus so possibly not at most coherent!
Aargh, bloody app! Sorry everyone.
I find that the whole concept of privilege has been so misused and (sorry to be repetitive) aggressively used that it is no longer a helpful concept.
A poster on here said something alone the lines of privilege should really be things like earning large sums of money, running the country or owning a mansion. Things like the right to be fairly treated in an interview, to give birth safely, to not be murdered or attacked are not a privilege; they are basic human rights which some people don't have.
I will acknowledge that I was privileged to go on an exciting foreign holiday ten years ago. It isn't a privilege that I didn't die in childbirth and haven't been murdered by extremists.
Of course it's not a competition.
So why is it that, persistently, when we talk about this situation, we get people posting and putting women/lesbians/radfems in the 'privileged' category and transpeople in the 'oppressed' category?
Is it really so difficult to accept that maybe we could hold off that judgement just for a little bit?
But no, instead, we get 'oh, radfems are behaving like white people who scare the poor oppressed blacks/ transpeople'. That is extremely unsubtle in its assumptions about relative privilege.
No - it's not a competition. But the reality is that being members of certain groups makes life harder.
I don't feel oppressed. I feel discriminated against in society. Which is crap.
Rad Fems aren't oppressing or scaring me.
I still have a lot of advantages over a lot of people. I've got a good education and the support of most of my family.
Life could be a lot worse. Life could be a lot better.
Because radical feminists and lesbian activists have made mistakes, like every group of people ever. It's easier to label yourself as part of queer theory or intersectional so that you are part of a new movement and can claim to be free of all those mistakes. Claiming to be in the same group as trans women is an easy way to do that because there are very few trans women (compared to ethnic minorities, poor people, gay people, people with disabilities etc) so it is easier to co-opt their struggle and say you are speaking for the oppressed and the other person is the oppressor.
But now I'm just being cynical.
Sorry, was answering MRD's question.
I was just thinking about Kim's question about who finds it harder to get a job, and it shows how complicated things are.
My hunch would be that all other things being equal, it's the transwoman more often than not (and especially in Kim's job where there's all that 'Think of the children!' bollocks about how it will confuse them) but because the transwoman has already experienced elements of male privilege in their education and career before transitioning, they won't be starting from an equal place. And the transwoman who has already had 30 years of a successful career in computing as a man is going to be in a better place career-wise than the one who transitioned at 18 and had all those years of being discriminated against as a woman. And the one who passes as a woman is going to get a completely different bundle of discriminations anyway from the one who reads as male.
The transwomen I have met with good careers are in the traditionally male jobs of science and computing and established themselves before transitioning. I wonder if they are met with less suspicion than those who want to do traditionally female jobs. It also seems to be a lot easier in universities than schools.
I know you can never quantify oppressions anyway, but this would just make it even more impossible to answer meaningfully. You would have to research the hell out of it even to come up with some general trends.
Cynical, but quite likely right freya.
So what's the answer - for us all to be more open about mistakes? It might be.
tunip - it's the same with lots of things, though (IMO). I have a better chance of getting a job, especially in a nice conservative US university, than a woman who doesn't look as nicely feminine as me. I have a less good chance of getting a job anywhere than a bloke who doesn't get the twits 'OMG, might have a baby and go on leave' radars going. There's shedloads of intersecting reasons why some people find it harder than others.
What I have an issue with is the assumption that before we even begin to discuss anything, we're already meant to assume that cis privilege is the most important form of privilege in the world ever. And I do feel as if that is what is happening.
Who do you think is saying that?
I felt that the comparison of radfems in this debate to well-meaning white anti-racist activists was pretty telling, TBH!
I'm sure there are people more privileged in this world than non-trans people.
And I'm sure there are people in this world who have a far more difficult life than trans people.
Yes, but you are a rational person. And you fly off the handle less than I do.
I have my moments. But normally with myself.
MRD, I can only speak for myself. I care less about what label somebody gives themself in terms of feminist, radical feminist, queer activist etc as they are, after all, just words, and more about finding points of shared ground that I can work on, and on conversations that are between people who are in definite disagreement but allow me to learn even if we still disagree at the end of it.
I also try and give other people the benefit of the doubt online, and treat them (based on a piece of online advice) how I'd like my teenage niece or my 90 year old grandmother to be treated, with all the lack of knowledge or skills they might bring to some contemporary political debate. But I still make mistakes and regret not being more tolerant online all the time.
MRD, I mentioned white anti-racist activists but I wasn't comparing them to radical feminists. I was talking about people who are supposedly acting in favour of the rights of a group of people but are not part of that group verbally attacking members of that group.
So that would apply non-trans queer theorists attacking trans women, non-female feminists attacking females, non-gay gay rights activists attacking gay people and so on. It would only apply to a radical feminist of the radical feminist was a man or non-binary person attacking a woman.
kim Who do you think is saying that?
kim, I think this is effectively what is being said when one group of feminists rejects discourse with another group across all topics and try to have them no-platformed because they disagree about gender theory and trans issues. This doctrinaire behaviour is happening in mainstream feminism, not just on the extremes of transactivism. In the US, Lierre Keith was recently no platformed by feminists and transactivists at a university where she was due to speak on environmental issues - she was not even going to speak about trans or gender issues!
I think it is also evident in the criticism of Cathy Brennan by mainstream feminists and transactivists where nothing or little is said about the horrendous abuse she faces online and sometimes in person. There seems to be a clear context which is that trans issues and cis privilege are, as MRD says, the most important issues or privileges ever.
This just popped up in my Facebook feed.
It's a well-known transactivist writing in a high profile feminist magazine (absolutely NOT somewhere marginal or lunatic fringe) saying that feminism needs to centre trans issues: On trans issues within feminism and strengthening the movement?s gender analysis
Yup, trans issues are the most important issues ever and they are the most oppressed people ever according to this writer.
The writers is just convinced that if we can only break the link between gender and vagina, the oppression will disappear. It's just so naive, and frankly such a self-serving view.
The people with vaginas will still be oppressed but we will be unable to politically organise because we won't be allowed to meet together and we won't be able to use existing movements to fight against our biologically-based oppressions.
We will still have the babies.
We will still be at the bottom of the binary whether you call it gender or sex or beetroots and parsnips.
typo, that should say writer not writers. It's single-authored.
Any blog, article or book that starts going on about cisnormative loses points with me straight away. It's just becoming a fight to argue about which group is the most oppressed. How the hell does such a small minority group manage to make feminism about them and why do they get to claim feminism for themselves and then accuse feminists of not being feminists ?
What on earth is feminism if not a movement first and foremost about women ? Why do women have to accomodate and accept near enough every variant of gender as part of the group that is women ?
My problem with transactivism is that it has chosen feminism as a vehicle to get its voice heard instead of lobbying for their own specific voice and requirements for non discrimination. And in doing so, it dilutes feminist theory and as a result, renders feminism impotent.
In my darker moments I'm not convinced that transactivism does anything other than support a patriarchial society. And getting increasingly frustrated about the fact that it's not acceptable to have this debate. I'm sick of being told to shut up.
I truly don't understand how feminism is meaningful for women in this construct where trans issues are centred. The author seems to think the oppression of patriarchy is that "femininity is devalued" and she brings up (again) this issue that reproductive rights are not feminist issues because transwomen don't have female reproductive organs. That seems so retrograde and not helpful for women at all. If the problem of patriarchy was primarily the expression of femininity, butch or masculine women would fare better than feminine women and anyone can see that the opposite is the case.
I agree Tunip this is so self-serving. And I agree with Freya that it is largely young, white, middle class, straight women who are jumping on the queer bandwagon.
I don't think that feminists sites discussing trans issues in the way that article does are either attempting to promote patriarchy or promote trans women's rights. It's trying to promote the rights of women whose lives aren't largely about children over those whose are. To me, the discussion of gender and trans rights in this way is just a way of promoting that. And there has always been a tension over that issue in feminism and it has always been hugely divisive. Julie Bindel wrote a very negative article about mothers recently.
There have always been people lining up to say that only if being a woman was less about getting pregnant, breast feeding, caring for and teaching children we wouldn't be in this predicament. It's the same old argument dressed up in a new ideology.
FF, and young, white middle class university educated women are in a different position to most other women is that they usually have a decade and a half of being an adult woman in which they have no caring responsibilities, so the issues they are experiencing are not those of most other women.
Most of the focus of having an identity based primarily on being a straight queer because you are into BDSM, ethical porn etc isn't really possible if you spend most of your time existing in a world that involves the whole of society including children. You have to be a segregated subculture that largely excludes children and the people who are busy looking after them.
No-one else is going to fight for reproductive rights, if we don't. They can call this feminism if they want but it ain't liberation for women.
I would happily leave them to it and do my thing - campaign for the issues that feminists have traditionally been bothered about like male violence and reproductive rights and which are still there and haven't gone away. But they don't like me doing that. (And according to Marfina it's 'discriminatory'.)
NB it is the transactivists and their allies who try to prevent the radfems from meeting, never the other way round.
The analysis in that link makes no sense to me.
She honestly doesn't seem to see how the statement 'a woman is a person with a vagina who can make babies' is radically different from 'women are babymaking factories'. The difference between the two is the major thing feminism is about - it's the difference between women being able to do something and women being forced to do something.
But evidently that's not important.
Mooncup, I totally agree with your examples of which types of "labels" are problematic and which aren't.
(And also, OMG! Someone came onto this thread and agreed with me! faints )
I also see Tunip's point about how "Transwomen do X" doesn't necessarily mean "All transwomen". But I do think there's a crucial ambiguity in many of Brennan's statements as to whether she means "some" or "all", and I suspect the ambiguity is not something she is greatly bothered about.
To some extent I share Freya's skepticism about the word queer. I have heard the word used so extensively recently that it almost seems to have lost any real meaning. For example, I heard an academic talk suggesting that male authors who write fiction narrated in a woman's voice are therefore de facto queer (and this was clearly meant as a term of praise). I would never use the word queer in that way myself. A male author can create a fictional female narrator and manipulate that narrator in a way that is completely cliched and traditional and sexist; there doesn't have to be anything challenging or transgressive about it. Just playing around with literary voices does not on its own make you queer, dammit! But I digress. I do believe that for a lot of people who don't feel comfortable describing their gender or sexuality or both in terms of binary oppositions, the term queer has been very empowering.
As for playing the "which group is more oppressed" game, that's bullshit IMO. Not useful at all.
Finally, as an aside, there are not as many feminist medievalists on this thread as I thought. I didn't notice LRD's metamorphosis - I wondered where she had disappeared to after starting this whole discussion.
This post has taken me ages to type as DS2 is waking up every few minutes for absolutely no good reason.
I thought I'd posted to say it, but turns out I'd posted on virtually all the other threads I'm on, but not this one. Daft namechanges don't really go with serious subjects.
I've got very much the same issues with 'queer' as you have. I recently came across this: www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2013/05/karls-kzoo2013-paper-feeding-dogs-queer.html
I've got to admit, I find this problematic on a number of levels (and that's the polite version of what I think).
Btw, I actually feel uncomfortable on a personal level with 'queer' and it is because I don't feel comfortable with describing my sexuality in terms of binary oppositions. I get why others feel differently, I just feel there's really nothing un-binary about it. It's just expanding one group to the point of meaninglessness. I feel fairly uncomfortable identifying as bisexual because, for goodness' sake, I've got a husband and I don't date women - but I feel a heck of a lot more uncomfortable calling myself 'queer' as to me that's like saying there's no difference between me and someone who's never been attracted to anyone of a different gender.
MRD, thanks so much for that link. It's brilliant. BRILLIANT. I am wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. Maybe it's partly because it's too late at night and I'm tired, but it is the most hilarious academic article I have seen for a long time.
(I know the author did not intend it that way, but I am a bad, bad person.)
Excuse me while I retire now to give my cats some queer love.
Oh, I am equally bad. I have got to admit a bit of me is utterly delighted I get to share it on here with someone who will understand both the feminism and the medieval side of it.
That article is all upside down and back to front to me.
If the problem was a matter of femininity being devalued, women who perform femininity wouldn't be so consistently praised and rewarded, and women who don't conform to a feminine ideal wouldn't get punished.
I just don't understand how this really basic misunderstanding of gender is getting under everyone's radar. Sometimes when I read pieces like that I feel like I've fallen down Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole - I think, 'Really? And when did everything that underpins my understanding of feminism just get erased? Did I dream it?'
It's very difficult to engage with something like that article. It's as if you think you're speaking the same language as someone - the words are all the same - but then you have this horrible realization that you are actually speaking totally different languages. While also swimming through treacle, in a fog. It's kind of a similar feeling to being gaslighted. That's how I experience it, anyway.
She says femininity is devalued, but then that people who fail to perform femininity are the hardest hit. I actually think that is true in a way - femininity is mocked ('don't be such a big girl'/'pink is for sissies') and women who're not feminine are punished for it.
I just don't see why she thinks that's to do with 'cisnormativitiy' when it's radical feminists who're arguing most strongly that we need to get rid of 'femininity' as a concept and to stop pretending gender is real.
No, that sentence (^I see the worst of our gender hierarchy landing on the shoulders of folks who fail to meet the strict rules of the compulsory gender binary in a way thats perceived as feminine^) is ambiguous - I think she means the interpretation that when people violate gender norms by performing femininity they get punished - because the example that immediately follows is queer men and transwomen. Which is true - but it doesn't follow from that that the problem can be fixed by valuing femininity. Nor does this idea that femininity is perceived as bad explain why women who don't conform to a feminine gender role are not rewarded for it - quite the reverse is true.
I mean, I agree with you - I don't like that traditionally female occupations or crafts or pastimes etc get dismissed - but they are dismissed because they are associated with women, not because there's some inherent mystical feminineness about them.
Ah, d'you think so? That hadn't occurred to me but might well make more sense.
And I agree - there's no reason to think the best way to solve problematic gender norms would be with more gender.
I just don't follow the reproductive arguments at all.
In fact what she's actually saying is that queer men and transwomen suffer more from the gender binary than anyone else, because it's worse for a man to do femininity than it is for a woman not to. I suppose that always depends on multiple other factors though. But then it's the follow-through that breaks down.
But basically we should all shut up and reconfigure feminism so it's not selfishly about the people who give birth to babies anymore.
Jesus wept. I'm glad I came to feminism when it was a simple concept that male and female i.e. all persons are of equal worth and deserve equal opportunities to succeed in whatever course in life they choose to take and should not be bound by what they have in their knickers. That simple concept should be broad enough to cover homosexuals, transgender, intersex, queer or whatever. The rest to me is add-on bollocks that causes trouble when it needn't.
I never quite grasped the phrase "overthinking it" until I read this thread.
But I have no doubt I am in a minority of one here
I would like to say, with regards to reproductive rights, I think there is this tension (for want of a better word), where being pro choice seems to just be about abortion rights, rather than also having the right to have your baby and live in a world that accepts you as a mother and is structured to support you.
There is a very white, young middle class strand of feminism, where being Child Free is something to really fight for and motherhood is easy-peasy and societally approved, so no feminist activism is required in the realm of motherhood.
This is complete rubbish, but it's a very common viewpoint in a lot of "modern feminism", whether rad, liberal, Marxist etc.
YY. I think that is really important. I also think there is very common belief that abortion is dead easy and simple, and that if you don't agree it's always dead easy and simple, it must be because you are tending towards being pro-life, rather than because you think it's not particularly brilliant as a solution to unwanted pregnancy.
I really did find it telling that this conference was so brilliant in many ways but the issues around reproduction/motherhood just felt far less nuanced than anything else.
Motherhood didn't come up much. The session on feminist parenting didn't really go very far, compared with the discussions we have on here.
I don't agree that radical feminism overstates the abortion side of reproductive rights as much as other strands of feminism, though. I have always found radical feminists far better at thinking this stuff through, probably because they seem to be much older on average and more likely to have experienced it. People rarely talk about the way that mainstream and queer feminism are skewed towards youth but at the moment I think they are, and it's damaging.
I think it might have been more the case for radical feminism in the past, though. Wasn't Shulamith Firestone a radfem?
I don't think radical feminism overstates the abortion side as much as other strands of feminism either. I do think all strands of feminism have aways to go, but that's true of so many things. That's not me criticizing feminism, that's me feeling that feminism is constantly under siege from the people who would like us to shut up and be grateful for everything instead of continuing to discuss what is still not ok for women.
'I also think there is very common belief that abortion is dead easy and simple, and that if you don't agree it's always dead easy and simple, it must be because you are tending towards being pro-life,'
Yes, definitely agree.
Yes, I am of the 'it should be safe, legal and rare' school of belief re abortion, and think it would be useful to put more emphasis on how to reduce the need for abortion - whether that's improving contraceptive services, helping teenage girls to feel comfortable in refusing to have PIV or insisting on condoms, supporting pregnant women who don't want to have abortions but have significant practical barriers to motherhood, etc.
Of course feminists do all of these things (unlike the pro-lifers...), but discussion round abortion sometimes gets reduced to 'it's all about choice', whereas feminist discussion of prostitution tends to be much more nuanced and understand the fact that although women may have chosen to be prostitutes, we should improve society so that they didn't feel like that was their only choice.
I'm not so sure that early termination isn't easy and simple for most women.
I know I was pressured into believing that I was somehow thwarting my natural instincts, that I was less motherly, that I was less womanly if I found it straightforward. There was a huge amount of pressure to feel anguish over something that just wasn't traumatic for me. That I was somehow less of a woman by not suffering PTSD from it.
It's not ok to say that I wasn't scarred by it. But then it's also not ok to say that motherhood isn't, for some women, the be all and end all. How much of the concept of motherhood is driven by patriarchial beliefs ? It's still taboo to question it - I don't know whether this is because women are questioning the natural order, going against patriarchial values or whatever but it still isn't ok to say that I as a woman am not defined by motherhood or that I find it difficult.
I can't help but feel that women are given a role that suits men - and are told that it's their destiny, that it's their purpose. I simply don't accept that motherhood involves anything other than raising children in a manner that is lovine and compassionate but nowadays to be a good mother, women seem to be expected to lose their identity and be entirely self sacrificing to their children and are vilified for doing otherwise.
I don't believe that historically motherhood was anything other than a part of women's lives, it wasn't their lives full stop. That's not to denigrate motherhood in anyway, of course it's full of meaning and purpose but it's not the only meaning and purpose to my life otherwise why bother educating me or expect me to have a career.
I agree there is that pressure, to feel as if you 'should' feel bad about an abortion.
But, I didn't actually say early termination isn't easy and simple for most women. I said there's pressure to assume it is always easy and simple. Patently (I would bloody hope) we all know that a termination at 24 weeks is not going to be either easy or simple. But lots of people honestly don't know that. On another thread on MN, someone asked in perfectly good faith why people were saying that you can't have an abortion without giving a reason - she thought abortion was entirely on-demand, which of course, it is not. And it some areas of the country it's actually very difficult to access an early termination.
I think the problem I have with the way this debate is often framed, is that it's often contrasted with the benefits or drawbacks of motherhood/having a baby you didn't want.
The ideal alternative to abortion is not motherhood (it's the pro-life argument that it is).
The ideal alternative to unwanted motherhood is not abortion (it's often put across as pro-choice to think so).
The ideal, IMO, is women not ending up in the situation where they have to choose in the first place.
Sorry, I dunno if that is just far too simplistic.
I agree LRD but the problem is that to avoid abortion entirely in current society, you have to avoid PIV sex entirely. I agree that women need to stop being judged and punished by their choice to reproduce or otherwise and supported regardless.
Sadly, I think we as a society are not as far away from the madonna/whore view of women as we think we are. The concept of what constitutes one or the other may have broadened but I think that the issue of women, sex and motherhood are still affected by the often subconcious view that we're one or the other.
Then again, educating me WAS obviously a complete waste of time given my spelling and missing punctuation in my post above.
Oh, sure, it's not a tenable proposition in our current society, it is just an ideal. I think what annoys me is that so often, if you act as if you are anything but cravenly grateful that abortion exists, you're painted as being pro-life or massively entitled. And really I do not quite see why it is such an enormous privilege to go through that. It's great relative to what it was like for women before abortion was legal, sure, but it's not great in itself.
I completely agree about the madonna/whore thing. I think one of the things Caitlin Moran did do very well in her book was put her case for abortion being one of the things that made her a good mother. That is still something that seems very taboo to say.
Oh, lord, if we're judging spelling and punctuation we'll be here all night!
I've given up on mine.
I rather liked what Caitlin Moran had to say on the subject.
I also liked (iirc) that she argued that you could believe that some form of life began at conception and still believe absolutely that women had the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy.
That was something I'd always found difficult. I don't believe it's just a bunch of cells or a potential life (though nor do I believe it's a baby). It's on a very wide spectrum of life and I believe that the woman should have control over whether it continues to develop.
But for a long time that was very taboo to say as a feminist.
So do you think that in order to prevent abortion from being necessary, women need to be able to control sex, especially PIV sex ? I can't see how anything else would work.
And men stop women from having that control by rape, coercion, being the decision makers in so many ways.
It such a fundamental thing that underlies all the other inequality that I'm can't help but be pessimistic about our chances of achieving true equality. Maybe I'm missing something.....
Yes, I thought that was a good point too, amanda.
blis - yes, I do think that. And I do sometimes feel pessimistic but I think that is because we are so immersed in the reality of how life is now, we find it hard to see how it could be different. I know I do, anyway. But I think it must have seemed equally impossible that things could change before the pill was developed.
I think abortion is difficult because we are all so mad about sex. I mean have mad attitudes. There should be condom machines everywhere, endless adverts about safe sex, a recognition that sex is great and fun and do it/don't as you wish but use a condom. And that abortion is sometimes better if the alternative is an unwanted human being.
Blistory, I don't think it is an option for the vast majority of mothers to never work on any task other than looking after children. It just seems a straw man argument.
I think probably the exact opposite of you. I think misogyny is created by two issues - the essential human problem of finding ways of making somebody else do more work than you (so women do the majority of the world's work so men have to do less). That isn't specific to men and women because lots of other ways of categorising people have been invented so some people can do less work than others.
The second issue is motherhood. I think men know mother and baby is the basic building block of society, and they are peripheral to that. A vast amount of social effort is put into a. us all making out that some thing done almost exclusively by men is amazing, special and important so they don't feel pushed out and b. allowing men to control which women are allowed to have children, when and under what circumstances. Most extreme male anger and control of women is around these issues.
Freya, apologies, perhaps I wasnt clear.
Obviously reproducing is essential to the survival of the human race. This involves women and men only in the initial creation. Thereafter I agree, from a survival point of view, men arent necessary except to contribute to the next round of reproduction.
So men are pretty pointless in terms of Mother Nature other than the supply of sperm. This doesnt mean that they dont then contribute but there is nothing about their contribution that cant be done by women. So men need to find a role and in creating a patriarchal society, theyve given themselves a role, as provider, protector, ruler, etc etc.
In order to appease women, and particularly in recent times, when women have started to question why men hold this apparently dominant role, the response has been to tell women that their role is motherhood. Thats it. There is nothing else that women were good for. So that role has been embellished to an extent. Women are told that motherhood is their role, that men arent as naturally good at parenting, that because motherhood is so wonderful and fulfilling, women dont need any other role. Nice guilt trip theyve laid on us.
The concept of motherhood as being everything that a woman is about, is to my mind, very recent. Women werent historically so invested in their children for their own sense of purpose. They had larger families, children frequently died in infancy, they were more accepting of the village to raise a child mentality. Children were treated as a further source of income and labour, through necessity. Im not for one minute arguing that modern day children shouldnt be cherished and valued, but look at the way in which modern women regard their children. Its almost like an extension of themselves, they have ownership of children in a way that is a relatively new phenomenon. You cant criticise a child otherwise youre criticising the mother. Theres still a widely held perception that only a woman can really truly understand the needs of a baby and infant child. And yet society has a much better idea of child development and the only specific things that a woman brings are pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. There is nothing else in raising a child in modern day UK that a caring and involved father cant do as well.
Who does it suit better to continue with the belief that child rearing is all consuming, a process of maternal instincts, and the ultimate goal of all women ? That would be men. I really dont think that its a coincidence. I firmly believe that our society has taken child rearing and made it solely the province of women in order to benefit men. And that to appease us, were apparently treated with a sense of wonder that we can reproduce, that only we know our babies, that we should be at home with them. I wonder how many women stay at home due to a sense of belief that its their duty and that they are less of a mother if they dont and consequently less of a woman.
It comes back to choice very few women actually have the choice to be a stay at home parent or working parent because choice cant exist without equality. I just think that the concept of motherhood holds some of the solutions to equality but it involves women breaking the taboo of saying that women arent naturally better parents than men, that having a child is wonderful and life affirming but its not all that a woman is about, and that youre not less of a woman for not having a child.
In a nutshell, where you think that misogyny is caused by motherhood, I think misogyny created motherhood, or at the very least, created a false expansion of what motherhood is in order to bind women to a specific role.
I think there is a lot of truth in that blistoy.
However, not all women were allowed to have the "motherhood as ultimate goal". Authorities have frequent denied the motherhood of poor women, women of color, women with disabilities and so on.
For some women SAHMing has been a glided cage, whereas for others, it's been a luxury they've not been permitted and I think it's important to remember that.
That's true, too.
It goes back to what we're always saying on here, that women have always worked. There is the public perception of what women have done in the past, which is set up as the lovely ideal from back before we all got uppity with feminism, but it only describes a tiny proportion of women at one very narrow point in time.
Yes and no, re motherhood being less important (to those that were allowed to be mothers, as you say).
Childrearing was made less of a meal of but you would have spent a much greater proportion of your time pregnant and stood a greater chance of dying of it than now, so an ideology that elevated motherhood was important then too and I think it existed in many earlier periods.
But if this happened as blis says, and motherhood became elevated because men felt pushed out by biology, then it happened before recorded history. It makes sense that needing an ideology to elevate a really dangerous/ubiquitous experience was necessary too, but it'd be hard to know how those two things interacted.
I do find it really persuasive though, because I think something we're really bad at coping with as a society is the fact that we expect men not to care as much as women do about their children.
The thing is, I don't know if women perhaps are the more natural parent but even if that is biologically so, I think it's a pretty poor excuse for the lack of involvement by men in parenting their children in modern society.
I've no idea, but my ignorant impression is that the urge to be a loving parent isn't gendered at all (or we'd never find men who had it, and I've spoken to two just today so it isn't that rare). So yes, pretty poor excuse.
Also, childhood as we know it, hasn't always existed. Children would be working from a very young age indeed.
It's intriguing the way motherhood seems to swing from either being on a pedestal or viewed as the ultimate soul sapping drudgery.
Good point about childhood. Didn't women use to take their children to work with them and many of the children had to work?
I suppose the development of compulsory education would have made a massive difference. What effect did that have on parents when school was introduced. Was there a school run?
Then there was also the effect of the industrial revolution on the actual number of workers needed in society. What kind of work was available to people?
I think a lot of people worked in the home, even until relatively late. Louis Braille ended up blind because he was in his parents' work room and he put an awl through his eye. Not that uncommon.
I wish I knew more about the industrial revolution. I think there's a MNer who works on relevant stuff - something to do with mothers in Lancashire mill towns, but I've forgotten who it was.
I think some very lucky children have probably always had a 'childhood' in the sense of being coddled and educated instead of working, and so on, but it's probably just as much a privilege as getting to spend time on the mothering.
Blistory, I never mentioned SAHMs. It's just another straw man argument. I don't think we need to look at historical examples to see that women all over the world work, often alongside their children.
'So men need to find a role and in creating a patriarchal society, theyve given themselves a role, as provider, protector, ruler, etc etc.'
When or where are men the main providers? All over the world, women do most of the work. Presumably patriarchy was created to make women do the majority of the work.
'The concept of motherhood as being everything that a woman is about, is to my mind, very recent. Women werent historically so invested in their children for their own sense of purpose. They had larger families, children frequently died in infancy, they were more accepting of the village to raise a child mentality. Children were treated as a further source of income and labour, through necessity. Im not for one minute arguing that modern day children shouldnt be cherished and valued, but look at the way in which modern women regard their children.'
I'm pretty much shocked by how offensive and callous that is. This isn't in the past! What you describe is happening now, for most women, all over the world. Why don't you go and ask the women this is happening to now what their purpose is in working really hard, all day, everyday clearing fields, carrying water etc. Go and ask them what their sense of purpose is, or read what they have to say in interviews online. They'll tell you it's because they are mothers and want their kids to be fed, and they will work as hard as they can to make that happen.
I feel pretty angry about this TBH, and after scorning social justice type people online I will now take one of their phrases. This thread - collection of first world problems.
Lots of things can be true simultaneously for different reasons
So what happens in 4 years time (roughly) when a male contraceptive is available and men have more control over becoming parents? According to the test results 100% effective and I wilkl be encouraging both sons to use it until they are sure they are ready/willing to become parents.
In terms of feminism though as point out nature only requires men to donate sperm, after that anything that needs to be done we can do. Ifg men can deny us the choice of being pregnant or not at their will how will that affect women who want to be mothers?
As a mother fantastic for my boys but the implications of the control in hands men over parenthood worries me and I say this as someone who went through an abortion at 22 where my ex convinced me we couldn't afford to have a child.
SEB, I think it sounds great. What is it that worries you?
Men can already deny women the possibility of being mothers by using a condom, or abstaining. Having children should be a joint decision, no?
I think a male contraceptive sounds good. I think men can already deny us the choice - no-one seriously wants a baby with a man who would be on a contraceptive pill if he could be, do they?!
My worry is, we know the female contraceptive pills aren't all they're cracked up to be. I don't know if a male one could or would be different. I worry people would expect a huge social change and it wouldn't be that.
Cynically, I also wonder how many men would take such a pill.
Also there are plenty of relationships where the burden of contraception falls to the woman anyway, even if she would like children, because she's waiting for her husband/partner to be "ready".
I wouldn't trust anything other that a vasectomy - I'm the one that would have the baby as a result of failure, not the man.
I can see that a male contraceptive might suit those men who're already motivated to see contraception as something they need to take care of, but I don't think those men are the problem really. The problem is the men we read about on here, who tell their wives they don't want another baby, but don't want to use condoms, or who turn around when the baby is born and say they never really wanted it. I think that comes from what blis was saying about the way motherhood has become an ideal, and even when we're trying to have open conversations with a partner, it has become so fraught with expectations about how much a man has to be committed and how much a woman has to be committed.
MRD - I think that has less to do with idealized concepts of parenthood, than the fact that people are able to generally plan their families now. You don't have to go back too far in time to when that wasn't the case.
Well, it still isn't the case, is it? It's still rare across the world to be able to plan. I don't know how much it has changed. If you look back, you still find men who were angry their wives got pregnant, or who got their wives pregnant but didn't feel responsibile for the consequence, well before there was reliable contraception.
Freya, I've obviously offended you but living in a patriarchal society offends me almost every minute of every day now.
I'm quite capable of considering that a woman living hand to mouth in sub Saharan Africa loves her children and would walk many miles with her child on her back to get them food or medical aid. That same child that will be forced for survival to work from an early age themselves. Of course, it's a brutal life - I've been out there and I've seen it first hand but I don't think it's a feature of motherhood alone as I've seen the same women do exactly the same for their husbands, for elderly relatives and I think it comes down to familial responsibility and the sense that you are responsible for a wider community - I think we possibly lack that in the Western world to a large extent.
I don't think it's offensive or callous to recognise that children, in numerous societies, were sold by their families into slavery, forced to work, sent to war, were considered a burden or indispensible. I recognise that it still goes on. I think contraception may have played a significant role, primarily in the first world, for children's rights coming to the forefront and I was simply wondering why this was, whether it was a natural progression or a forced one as in freeing women from continual pregnancy and childbirth, women didn't achieve the freedom they thought they would. Instead there seems to have been an elevating of 'motherhood' that works to have tied women to the home just as much. Questioning that, isn't to my mind, questioning that women love their children.
I've never argued that women haven't worked - I think the concept that women don't work is a relatively recent one and again is a very sexist view as it doesn't consider child rearing or looking after the home as work, never mind the fact that women have tended to have additional work on top of that.
As for first world problems, well, I've always thought that was an effective way to try and stop discussion. There's a sliding scale of how bad women have it but just because on this thread, I was posting primarily about the modern Western world, doesn't mean that I disregard the appalling situation that women face all over the world. First world problems are equally valid - there's some appalling stuff here in my home town that I wouldn't wish upon any woman or human being and I'm sure it's no consolation to them that they live in a first world society.
doctorine as a mother of two boys it is great but consider if a man decides he doesn't want a family? One version of contraception is reversible but last five years what happens if he doesn't tell his partner. She could believe there are problems when it is just him deciding. Pros men take responsibility for family planning, con is man can completely control family planning and having seen threads on here about coming off the pill and not telling their partner it will cut both ways men denying partners the chance to get pregnant and men deciding they are ready for children and maybe not telling their partners their contraception is no longer active (depending on the type).
Blistory - I do think the idea that an " it takes a village" mentality is somehow better then a nuclear family is overly romantic.
Many women living in extended families or close knit communal situations actually have far less say in their lives and how they spend their time then we would want for ourselves and are often at the mercy of immovable hierarchies, whether male or female dominated.
I don't see how that's bad though, sausage? Surely it is much better than the alternative of a man not wanting a family but ending up having one? People can always find more inventive ways of lying to each other if they are total wankers, of course.
Sausage, I kind of see your point but if the woman thinks they have fertility problems when the man is actually taking the pill, I don't think it'd take five years before she was arranging fertility tests for them both etc.
It's not just for my sons I'm pleased this is coming - DH can take a turn on the hormones for once, hooray!
Goth, I agree about it being an overly romantic concept but I find the nuclear family concept quite insular and selfish. It leaves no room for a a family member on the periphery such as a bachelor uncle.
I take your point about pressures of a more communal society.
I don't know what the ideal would be but there must be something in between the nuclear/communal concepts ?
doctorine I am sure most of us would be checking inside a couple of years. But remembering my controlling ex who first pushed me to an abortion and then when I discussed it with him and he agreed I wouldn't have been surprised if he had of used this if it had of been available. He wanted everything on his terms and a male cream or a minor procedure would not have been to difficult to hide.
And I am of an age where I no longer have to worry I can just enjoy things.
'I'm quite capable of considering that a woman living hand to mouth in sub Saharan Africa loves her children and would walk many miles with her child on her back to get them food or medical aid. That same child that will be forced for survival to work from an early age themselves. Of course, it's a brutal life - I've been out there and I've seen it first hand but I don't think it's a feature of motherhood alone as I've seen the same women do exactly the same for their husbands, for elderly relatives and I think it comes down to familial responsibility and the sense that you are responsible for a wider community - I think we possibly lack that in the Western world to a large extent'
If it came down to a sense of responsibility for a wider community, it would not be the case that women are doing 70% of the world's work for 10% of the world's income and less than 1% of the world's resources. Women. According to the UN, women produce 75-90% of food crops and do more work to support the household than men in every country in the world. How can any of this be the case if a community feels a shared responsibility? Clearly women are shouldering that responsibility.
I am sure it is the case that people feel a sense of compassion to other adults, but when mothers run or are influential in households, children are more likely to be adequately fed, have access to healthcare and education and spend less time working and have more time for play and recreation, according to UNICEF. Mothers generally prioritise children.
There are societies where fathers are very involved with the wellbeing of children, or ones where brothers are, or sisters, or grandmothers, or friends. There are societies where people form strong bonds with husbands, and ones where they form strong bonds with cousins, or with their superiors at work, or their mother in law, or with their brothers. You can socialise a society in any way you want, and reinforce all kinds of bonds. But when you look for societies where mothers are not very involved with their infants and children, they are the exceptions. The norm is that mothers care a lot about children.
Depending on what society you are in and what options you have, the way mothers do stuff that helps their children varies. They might have a paid job, they might grow crops at home, they might place more value on educating the child at home, or on the child's health. But they collectively use their time, income and resources to prioritise children to an extent that other groups do not.
And so I believe that motherhood is the basic relationship on which society is built - the bond between mothers and children which patriarchy attempts to damage, control or ignore so that they can perpetuate inequality in the next generation by disempowering mothers. You believe that patriarchy creates motherhood. I suspect that difference in opinion is the basis of why many women don't get involved in feminism. It often seems to be saying stop prioritising children, and I don't think the vast majority of women ever will.
I don't really want to get into the whole SAHM thing, because people have discussed that in huge detail on MN. I will say that we live in Britain in a post-industrial society which is highly complex and requires young people to be educated in a set of very complex skills which require specific modes of education to be employable, and where various areas of public life are highly inappropriate for children to be exposed to. I can see why mothers respond to that by trying to control their kids' environment and being heavily involved in their education. I see no point at all at comparing that to the way a mother in a mostly agricultural or industrial society looks after her kids to make a point that 'modern' motherhood is glorified. If you bring your child up to go out and work from the age of seven as a crow scarer in a field or to open trap doors in a mine shaft while living in 21st century Britain, you're neglecting your child. If you're living in the 19th century, mothers would be usually preparing your child for the options that give them the best chance in their circumstances, as mothers do now.
'As for first world problems, well, I've always thought that was an effective way to try and stop discussion. There's a sliding scale of how bad women have it but just because on this thread, I was posting primarily about the modern Western world, doesn't mean that I disregard the appalling situation that women face all over the world. First world problems are equally valid - there's some appalling stuff here in my home town that I wouldn't wish upon any woman or human being and I'm sure it's no consolation to them that they live in a first world society.'
It is an effective way to stop discussion and is often misused in that way. But I referred to it as first world problems due to you and the responses from other posters. You were giving specific examples of women not being invested in their children for their sense of purpose because their children died young, lived in poverty etc. You then used that as a way of criticising the behaviour of 'modern' mothers. I think that is a specific use of the conditions of the lives of huge numbers of women globally now and an assumption about their feelings about their dead children, which you used as the basis of a criticism of 'modern' (presumably you mean Western) mothers. I think it is valid to say that is dismissing the lives of others so you can talk about first world problems. It is completely different to me thinking nobody should ever talk about first world problems. I just don't think you should trivialise or make assumptions about the emotions of mothers about children dying in other circumstances to do so.
I get it now.
No, I don't believe that only women are capable of prioritising children and I think the idea that they are reinforces the notion that men are entitled to walk away from their responsibilities and leave it all to women.
I was't arguing for motherhood to be valued lower but for men to be expected to value fatherhood as highly as we value motherhood.
Blistory, yes I agree about fatherhood. And I apologise to you and anyone else that I'be been a bit insensitive to on this thread.
No apologies needed. I could have been clearer with what I meant.
Thanks for the great thread OP and contributors - I wasn't able to be at RF13 and just now read the whole thing in one!
Oh ... I'm sorry, I still don't feel I've given fair feedback!
It is a bit of a pity we got to debate the trans issue, because it was not a huge part of the conference. Honestly, the dominant theme (for me) was how positive it is to get to meet up with other women. From that basic theme there were ideas about how difficult or easy it is to come out as a lesbian, and how comfortable women feel with each other, and all sorts of issues that had nothing to do with much of this thread. I suppose it's inevitable we focus on the controversial stuff, but it did honestly feel very positive and lovely.
I fully expect a woman-only conf thread to have a lot of what about da tranz/menz, so I skimmed those bits. But what you say here:
how comfortable women feel with each other
This is worthy of its own thread but then again, it is something that does require woman-only space for the safety to really discuss it with the courage and honestly it requires. Acknowledging and discussing the fear women have of one another cuts to the heart of the divide and rule of women by men (patriarchy)... and makes a lot of people feel very queasy... Afterall, even though societal structure across the globe is a grotesque hierarchy forged by abuse and exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few - at least you 'know yer place'.. That queasiness is often re-framed as 'women need men to fight alongside them' or 'it is just bigoted to say that transwomen and born women are different'.... There are women that will come up with any bullshit excuse to not have to confront their fear of being with only other (born) women who want to put born women at the centre - not the sideline for a change.
so so fed up of trans-issues popping up all over feminist issues
I also liked (iirc) that she argued that you could believe that some form of life began at conception and still believe absolutely that women had the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy.
Isn't that a bit like the concept fetus rights don't start until woman's right ends... (which I approve of incidentally; I can't imagine any women enjoy the late term abortions SPUC shroud wave about) - and the woman gets to decide who sharesher body, be that be friend, partner or fetus
Male contraceptive... great idea, but how do you decide to trust a man who says "oh it's OK, I'm on the 'pill' ". I guess it would only be used either by responsible and/or untrusting men. With that proviso, why wouldn't anyone welcome men having control of their own fertility?
Yes, it's a similar argument. However, in feminist circles, I often hear it argued that a fetus is just a blob of cells up to some point. Which I find harder.
I think that the risk with a male contraceptive is that it becomes an extra, not an instead. So in many couples the male would only take hormonal contraception if he was untrusting of his partner, and likewise many women would 'back up' the man using the pill. And whilst it is good to take contraceptive responsibility, I am not sure doubling up on hormones and NHS cost is necessarily a great thing. I would trust DH to take the male pill, but I do seem to be in a minority when the subject comes up.
Amanda, I would trust my DH.
I wouldn't trust a ONS though.
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